Remarks at a ECOSOC Meeting on the Fourteenth Session of UN Forum on Forests

Jason Lawrence
Adviser for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the UN
New York City
July 23, 2019


Madame Chair, the United States has been a strong supporter of the UN Forum on Forest (UNFF) since its inception. While we are not raising specific concerns with the recommendations contained in the report, we think it is important to highlight certain points that were raised earlier this year during interventions at UNFF 14 related to the topics of the possible creation of a Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN) office in China and UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) reform.

GFFFN office in China
Regarding a possible future office in China for the GFFFN, the United States underlines the importance of GFFFN’s work being carried out in a balanced, transparent, and effective manner that maintains international best practices. Such provisions must be at the forefront of any potential consideration to set up a GFFFN office. In this regard, we continue to call for full and timely updates with regard to possible establishment of a GFFFN field office. We also requested that the secretariat actively seek members’ input on all matters related to the Forum’s budgets and the GFFFN mandate.

Any such office should preserve the international and multilateral character of the UN, UNFF, and the GFFFN, including being open and accessible to all member states, civil society, and other partners. We seek assurances that any personnel and activities of any such GFFFN office would remain under UNFFS leadership and authority. This principle must be clearly documented if any steps are taken to establish such an office. In line with this, any leadership positions at the branch office must not outrank the UNFF Director in terms of authority, reporting channels, and professional rank. These are important general principles that must be respected.

It also should be clear what the relationship is to the GFFFN and what specific responsibilities and functions any such office would have. Functions for such an office should be carefully chosen so they are practical and cost-efficient for work remote from UN Headquarters. For instance, while it may be workable for a proposed GFFFN office to provide additional assistance in helping countries to develop national forest financing strategies, we think it would be less practical to host databases.

With respect to this, UNFF member states should be able to review and comment on the MOU related to the establishment of any such office.

We understand the intent is for such a GFFFN office to be supported by extra-budgetary funding. The establishment and operation of any such office must come from voluntary contributions, ad infinitem. We request that any agreement governing the establishment and functioning of such office should explicitly provide for such funding and that the agreement be provided to member states. We welcome any additional information that ECOSOC can provide to members at this point.

DESA Reform
The United States fully supports the UN reform process. We believe that to continue to be effective and provide these benefits, an effective UNFF Secretariat should: Maintain a strong and engaged position within DESA and ECOSOC to highlight forest issues; Continue to be compact, efficient, and cost-effective; Concentrate on interconnections within the UN system; Be equipped and resourced to carry out the priority actions decided at UNFF sessions by its members.

We reaffirm UNFF resolution 13/1, which stressed the importance of maintaining the current and future ability of the UNFF and the subprogram entitled “Sustainable forest management” of the programme entitled “Economic and social affairs” to fulfill the Forum’s important mandate and role, and reaffirmed their intergovernmentally agreed mandates; We reiterate the importance of filling the position of UNFF Director, to ensure there is consistent leadership, representation, and communication, as well as a clear signal of commitment from the UN and DESA to the continued functioning and visibility of UNFF.

Transparency and information are paramount as this process moves forward. We would appreciate any information that can be shared on progress at this point. Thank you.