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Paramaribo Dialogue

The Country-Led Initiative on Financing for Sustainable Forest Management in support of the United Nations Forum on Forests met in Paramaribo, Suriname, September 8 to 12. The United States and the Netherlands co-sponsored, and Suriname hosted, the "Paramaribo Dialogue" aimed at educating participants on tools for giving economic value to forests and for securing the funds needed to protect forest eco-systems under threat in many parts of the world.

Stephanie Caswell, Director of Ecology and Natural Resource Conservation at the U.S. State Department, told the participants that the meeting would help inform international discussions on forest finance at the UN Forum on Forests. Ms. Caswell pointed to the UNFF's success in 2007, which included agreement on a Multi-Year Program of Work through 2015 and to the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests, which the UN General Assembly formally adopted in December 2007.

"The Non-Legally Binding Instrument on Forests is a landmark global agreement achieved after years of negotiation," said Ms. Caswell. "It builds on the Forest Principles adopted at Rio in 1992, as well as the Johannesburg Plan of Action of ten years later." It provides a framework for national action and international cooperation to achieve sustainable forest management. It also enshrines for the first time the recognition that Sustainable Forest Management depends on two equally important and closely interrelated factors – increased financial resources from all sources and good governance at all levels.

Public funding for forest-related projects include the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, which has already attracted $110 million in donor pledges to help developing countries reduce deforestation and forest degradation, while conserving water resources and protecting biodiversity. "However," said Ms. Caswell, "the reality is that public financing from taxpayers in donor countries will never be sufficient to support all the efforts of all countries to improve their forest management and governance."

What this new influx of public money can and should do, she said, is provide a catalyst for leveraging much greater funding from private and non-government sources.

Attracting commercial investment in sustainable forest management and harnessing the huge potential of private charities for forest protection were among the topics covered during the Paramaribo Dialogue. To achieve consensus that dialogue needs to continue.