GFMC: Statement COFO 16 March 2005

FAO Ministerial Meeting on Forests, 14 March 2005

17th Session ofthe FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO), 15-19 March 2005

Theme: International Cooperationin Wildland Fire Manegement

On-sitestatementby the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR)

WildlandFire Advisory Group / Global Wildland Fire Network

Presented by the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC)

16 March 2005


Johann Goldammer, Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC), presented the statement of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR) / WildlandFire Advisory Group / Global Wildland Fire Network on International Cooperation in Wildland Fire Management.

Over the past decade, many regions of the world have witnessed a growing trend of excessive fire application in land-use systems and land-use change, and an increasing occurrence of wildfires of extreme severities. Some of the effects of wildland fires cross borders, for example smoke pollution and its impacts on human health and safety, loss of biodiversity or site degradation at landscape level leading to desertification or flooding. The depletion of terrestrial carbon by fires burning under extreme conditions in some vegetation types, including organic terrain in peatland biomes, is one of the driving agents of disturbance of global biogeochemical cycles, notably the global carbon cycle. This trend is stirring the international community to address the problem collectively and collaboratively. The consultations of the Regional Wildland Fire Networks in 2004 recommended to develop informal partnerships, joint projects and formal agreements between government and non-governmental institutions that are essential to enable nations to develop sustainable fire management capabilities.

In December 2004 the Wildland Fire Advisory Group / Global Wildland Fire Network of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR) met at the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC), Freiburg, Germany. The objective of the conference was to evaluate the current status of wildland fires globally and to evaluate the consultations of the Regional Wildland Fire Networks held in 2004. These will be presented at tomorrow’s COFO side event on international cooperation in wildland fire management. The conference also prepared recommendations to support the Framework for the Development of the International Wildland Fire Accord (International Accord on Cooperation in Wildland Fire Management), directed to the FAO Ministerial Meeting on Forests (Rome, March 2005), the UNFF Ministerial Meeting on Forests (New York, May 2005) and the UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction (Kobe, Japan, 18-22 January 2005).

To be brief at this stage I would like to clarify terminology. The UN-ISDR Wildland Fire Advisory Group (WFAG) / Global Wildland Fire Network (GWFN) and the documents prepared by the FAO for the Ministerial Meeting on Forests and the 17th Session of COFO are calling for the development of an “International Wildland Fire Accord”. In many circumstances the term “Accord” is used to refer to a formal, approved, and binding instrument. However, the drafters of the declarations of the Regional Wildland Fire Networks did not intend the Accord to be a formal document, such as a Convention or Agreement, that would require ratification by governments, nor did they intend this to be a binding arrangement under international law. They rather intended that the term “International Wildland Fire Accord” would express a consensus of the international community to coordinate and strengthen international cooperation in wildland fire management.

Taking into account that the development of an international wildland fire management strategy – the terminology proposed by countries in the morning of this meeting the UN-ISDR Wildland Fire Advisory Group proposes a two-phase procedure in preparation for enhanced efficiency in international coordinated action.

The FAO Ministerial Meeting on Forests is encouraged to endorse this approach:

Near-term

The countries members of FAO are called to contribute to

  • Strengthen and support the Global Wildland Fire Network
  • Develop standards for global wildland fire assessments that would meet the needs of FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessments, the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and the mandates of the UN conventions.
  • Provide support for the use of a common, inter-country operable organizational system when agencies and countries agree to request and/or provide assistance during wildland fire emergencies
  • Support an international accord which is non binding both legally and financially on cooperation in wildland fire management

Mid-term

The countries members of FAO are called to:

  • Support the development of regional strategies and agreements under the aegis of ISDR and FAO in the context of natural disaster reduction and / or forest protection programmes, including the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and the mandates of the UN Conventions CCD and CBD, as well as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
  • Following the example of the UN General Assembly Resolution A/57/L.60 of 2002 on “Strengthening the effectiveness and coordination of international urban search and rescue assistance”, develop a GA resolution on “Strengthening the effectiveness and coordination of international cooperation in wildland fire management”. A General Assembly Resolution would be a high-level statement constituting visible political support of the need for internationally concerted action to respond to the wildland fire situation. It would be seen as an encouragement but non binding way of interacting without any legal or financial obligation.

Chair, Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the partcipating representatives of the Global Wildland Fire Network I would like to thank you for your attention.

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