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Threats to Forests

Daniel A. Reifsnyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Remarks to the Congo Basin Forest Partnership Consultative Committee Meeting
Brazzaville, Republic of Congo
October 30, 2008

Thank you for that introduction, and thanks to our hosts, the CBFP facilitator and the government of the Republic of Congo, for your gracious invitation to this important meeting.

Honorable Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, when former Secretary of State Colin Powell launched the Congo Basin Forest Partnership with South Africa in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, he said, “Nowhere is the threat to our forests more pressing than in Africa, and especially in Central Africa.” The United States has long recognized the extraordinary biological diversity and importance of the Congo Basin, home to a quarter of the world’s tropical forests.

Since launching the CBFP, the United States has invested more than $100 million to implement the Convergence Plan and help the countries of the Congo Basin to achieve the goals we all share: sustainably managed forests; livelihoods for the people of the region; and effective governance. The secret of the Partnership’s success has been the leadership and commitment of the governments of the Congo Basin. The Congo Basin Forest Partnership has proved to be a powerful framework to advance these goals – a power rooted in flexibility.

Before the CBFP, the United States saw donor interest in the region falling precipitously. Today, the situation is very different. According to the Global Environment Facility, more than 20 new funding mechanisms have emerged in the past year, offering a total of US$670 million for the Congo Basin alone.

As we say in the United States, “success breeds success.” The Congo Basin countries have made significant progress in the last six years toward sustainable forest management. That is a great credit to the governments, to the communities, and to the many partners working in this region.

Climate change – and the role forests can play in mitigating it – has inspired much of the new funding. The United Nations Forum on Forests will focus on forest finance and on climate change at its next session this April in New York. The issue of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation will continue to feature prominently in negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

These new opportunities represent a shift in the international architecture toward forest financing that is results-based and catalytic, drawing support from many corners. The proliferation of funding requires coordination, well-guided by understanding among all partners of one another’s mandates and priorities, both to avoid duplication and to strengthen the value of each contribution. This is where the CBFP will continue to play a major role in the region.

The strong regional ownership of the partnership, its flexibility, and regular communication are hallmarks of this partnership, and they lie at the heart of its success. On behalf of the people of the United States, I look forward to continuing this effort in the years to come.


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