NATIONAL ABORIGINAL FORESTRY ASSOCIATION
|Home | About NAFA | Strategy | Membership | Publications | Jobs | Links | Archive|
Aboriginal communities in Canada have struggled to gain access to decision-making, employment and business opportunities in the harvest and management of forest resources in their traditional territories. Until recent years, the standard practice of provincial governments was to license access to timber and authorize forest harvesting operations without reference to the interests and needs of Aboriginal peoples whose communities and traditional territories were surrounded by or were part of licensed areas. The concept of sustainable forest management has the potential to increase Aboriginal peoples' participation in forest management and to improve forestry practices.
Sustainable forest management is an important concept that directly addresses the future of the world's forests. The concept views forests as holistic, complex and diverse systems. Sustainable forest management has an ecological dimension that strives for the perpetual maintenance of the forest, an economic dimension that includes the production of products and services and a social dimension that involves people in forest management decision-making processes and distribution of forest benefits.
Sustainable forest management has been thrust to the forefront as a result of increased environmental awareness and recognition on the part of governments that protection of the environment must be incorporated into all aspects of government policy. One aspect of the growing movement towards sustainable forest management is that some consumers, led by environmental organizations, are demanding evidence that wood and paper products are derived from sustainable, environmentally-sensitive forest practices.
Over the past five years, organizations have been established to certify, or formally declare, that forest companies are practising sustainable forest management. Certification of forest products and of sustainable forest management systems is the proposed means, via the marketplace, to provide evidence of sustainable forest management. Certification shifts the motivation for responsible forest management away from government regulation to market pressure. This market pressure is the consumer's willingness to search out and pay for a product that is guaranteed to have been produced in a sustainable way. The forest industry is developing certification of forest management not as a result of government regulation, but in a voluntary effort to convince consumers to continue buying their forest products.
The Society of American Foresters recently conducted a study which summarises the goals of certification (Ozanne & Vlosky, 1996):
1) to increase general consumer awareness of the relationship of the forest industry to the environment; 2) to increase consumer acceptance and confidence; 3) to modify consumer behavior; 4) to modify manufacturer behavior; 5) to improve the earth's environmental quality; 6) to increase market share; 7) to provide product differentiation; 8) to provide an objective audit of the management of the forest asset; 9) to promote sustainable forest management; and 10) to demonstrate that forest management provides sustainable economic, ecological and social benefits. Although certification is voluntary and market-driven, governments have played a major role in defining sustainable forest management. Throughout the world, there are numerous government-led efforts underway to define and implement sustainable forest management through the development of standards and management systems which will guide forest companies in their practices. In Canada, the federal and provincial governments, through the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (1995), have developed "criteria" [principles or guides for action] and "indicators" [the means to measure if criteria are being met] for sustainable forest management. These criteria and indicators will be used to measure and monitor progress and ensure that the principles of sustainable forest management are met. A strong link has been forged between criteria and indicators and certification processes.
The notion of certifying sustainably produced forest products originated in the environmental movement in much the same way as did eco-labelling of a range of consumer products. Organically grown food is probably the best example of a certification process in action. Today, entire production, marketing and distribution systems are in place for organically grown, pesticide (residue) free food products and the market niche is growing steadily. While some comparisons on consumer preference can be made with organic food, a major difference with forest product and forest management systems certification is that the discussion has not focussed on a niche or market segment - entire industries are considering certification processes for their products. The involvement of nation states in sustainable development, as signatories to international conventions and trade agreements, will probably mean that certification in the forest industries will be more pervasive and all-encompassing.
To understand what has led to the development of certification processes in the forest sector, it is helpful to look back at the events which have occurred in furthering sustainable development and sustainable forest management.
The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) focussed discussion on sustainable development and the relationship between the natural environment and economic development. In Our Common Future (1987), the WCED defined sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." The WCED's principal recommendation was that there should be a global effort to achieve sustainable development. WCED also recommended that national governments incorporate the goals of environmental protection and sustainable development in the mandates of all government agencies. At the international level, the WCED targeted institutional arrangements, particularly those of the United Nations, and sought commitment from nation states on environmental protection and sustainable development through agreements and conventions.
In the five-year period from 1987-1992, international discussion and negotiation on sustainable development took place in a variety of fora, most notably the preparatory meetings leadings to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). UNCED, also known as the Rio Conference and the Earth Summit, took place June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. Intended to secure an environmentally sustainable future for all nations of the world, UNCED brought together 20,000 people representing governmental and non-governmental organizations. Though there were, and still are, varying opinions on the degree of success achieved at UNCED, the conference did produce results designed to further sustainable development internationally:
The Rio Declaration - a 27-point statement of principles for the integration of environment and development;
Agenda 21 - a 40-chapter, 500-page program which provides a blueprint of action in all areas relating to sustainable development, including chapters on deforestation and indigenous issues;
Climate Change Convention - a legally binding convention calling for the development of national programs to limit greenhouse gas emissions and use healthy forests as carbon sinks;
Biodiversity Convention - a legally binding convention requiring the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources;
Statement of Forestry Principles - a non-legally binding authoritative statement of principles for a global consensus of the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.
Although Aboriginal groups are among those that have been critical of UNCED, indigenous issues did receive considerable recognition in UNCED documents. Agenda 21 contained a separate chapter devoted to indigenous issues entitled "Recognizing and Strengthening the Role of Indigenous People and Their Communities" (Chapter 26). Some of the key statements made in UNCED documents pertaining to indigenous people and their involvement in sustainable development include:
The Rio Declaration - Principle 22
"Indigenous people and their communities, and other local communities, have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development."
Agenda 21, Chapter 26, clause 26.1
"In view of the interrelationship between the natural environment and its sustainable development and the cultural, social, economic and physical well-being of indigenous people, national and international efforts to implement environmentally sound and sustainable development should recognize, accommodate, promote and strengthen the role of indigenous people and their communities."
Biodiversity Convention, Article 8(j)
"Subject to its national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote the wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices."
Statement of Forest Principles, Element (5a)
"National forest policies should recognize and duly support the identity, culture and respect for the rights of indigenous people, their communities, and other communities, and forest dwellers. Appropriate conditions should be promoted for these groups for them to have an economic stake in forest use, to perform economic activities, and achieve and maintain cultural identity and social organization, as well as adequate levels of livelihood and well being, including through those land tenure arrangements which serve as incentives for the sustainable management of forests."
Statement of Forest Principles, Element (13d)
"Appropriate indigenous capacity and local knowledge regarding the conservation and sustainable development of forests should, through institutional and financial support, and in collaboration with the people in local communities concerned, be recognized, respected, recorded, developed and, as appropriate, introduced in the implementation of programmes."
Canada, as a nation, is now obligated to achieving sustainable development in accordance with the commitments made in these UNCED agreements and conventions. Canada would have preferred a forest convention rather than the non-legally binding Forest Principles, but there was insufficient support internationally for a convention. Nations did agree that they would individually set criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management as a basis for future negotiations on a forest convention, a process which could take years. To demonstrate a leadership role at UNCED on forestry-related issues, Canada was the first industrial country to ratify the Biodiversity Convention which came into force on December 29, 1993.
The significance of the UNCED statements on indigenous issues is that, in working towards sustainable development, nation states that signed the conventions or agreed to the principles in the Rio Declaration or Statement of Forest Principles are committed to addressing indigenous issues in the context of sustainable development. In effect, adequate provision for elements such as recognition of indigenous knowledge, maintenance of cultural identity, sharing in economic benefits and participation in decision-making are integral to the evolving definition and implementation of sustainable development. While many indigenous groups have pointed out inadequacies of UNCED statements on indigenous issues and the lack of financial resources to achieve the goals set out, some have noted a marked change in the attitude of United Nations countries towards indigenous peoples and their rights.
Since UNCED, the global discussions on sustainable development and forest issues have continued. As was recommended in Chapter 38 of Agenda 21, a UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) has been established "in order to ensure the effective follow-up of the Conference, as well as to enhance international cooperation and rationalize the intergovernmental decision-making capacity for the integration of environment and development issues and to examine the progress of the implementation of Agenda 21 at the national, regional and international levels."
To deal with forest issues in the global context, the CSD has formed an Intergovernmental Panel on Forests to coordinate follow-up forestry activities at the international level. However, the major tasks of implementing UNCED commitments fall squarely in the hands of national governments. In Canada, the National Forest Strategy (1992) and the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy (1995) have provided the framework for a range of domestic initiatives including the development of criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management.
|Home | About NAFA | Strategy | Membership | Publications | Jobs | Links | Archive|
This page was updated: June 1, 2005 | Contact NAFA | Website feedback | Site updated by Soleica Inc.