The Fifty-sixth Session of International Tropical Timber Council (ITTC-56) and the Associated Sessions of its four Committees opened Monday in a virtual session due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his opening remarks, ITTC-56 Chair Björn Merkell (Sweden) noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected forestry, with the preliminary findings of an International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) report suggesting that the tropical timber sector is likely to recover to pre-crisis volumes only by 2026, with Latin America most affected, followed by Southeast Asia.
ITTO Executive Director Gerhard Dieterle suggested the organization has huge potential to provide solutions to the challenges posed by COVID-19 to the tropical timber sector, and that the pilot programmatic approach to fundraising offers the right mix of thematic priorities and organizational orientation to address those challenges. He briefed the Council on efforts to become accredited with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Green Climate Fund (GCF), as well as cooperation with other organizations. He cautioned against changing leadership during the ITTO’s rebuilding process. He reiterated his proposal to ITTC-55 to extend his term as Executive Director for two more years, but said he was ready to step aside and let an Officer-in-Charge take over until a new Executive Director can be elected.
The focus on the first day was a briefing on the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on ITTO operations, and a preliminary review of the six draft decisions recommended by the Council’s Informal Advisory Group (IAG) on selection of the next Executive Director, the extension of the International Tropical Timber Agreement, 2006, the implementation of Phase II of the New Financing Architecture, the extension of the Strategic Action Plan through 2021, and the adoption of the ITTO Biennial Work Programme 2021-2022. Since the requirements for a quorum were not met on the opening day, no formal decisions were taken.
To deal with the challenge of a virtual meeting involving Member States across many different time zones, the agenda was streamlined, the daily sessions are limited to two hours, the four committees will not meet in parallel sessions, and the thematic market discussion normally featured at each Council session was cancelled.