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  PlanetArk 31 Jan 06
UN Reaches New Pact to Manage Tropical Timber

SWITZERLAND: January 31, 2006 GENEVA - Tropical timber exporters and importers on Friday struck a new 10-year pact to help promote the sustainable development of forests in the face of illegal clearances and logging.

Global sales of timber average about $10 billion a year, but some 15 million hectares of forest - nearly the size of Belgium - disappear every year.

The accord, hammered out in two weeks of negotiations, replaces the 1994 International Tropical Timber Agreement, which was due to expire at year-end, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said.

"The agreement establishes a framework for cooperation between exporters and importers," said Manuel Sobral, executive director of the International Tropical Timber Organisation, which administers the accord.

The new pact, agreed by 33 producing and 26 consuming states, calls on signatories to support and develop tropical timber reforestation and share information on forestry management. It also includes guidelines for conservation of bio-diversity within forests, for fire management and the recovery of degraded land.

"The international community is sending a clear signal that it attaches great importance to the maintenance of tropical forests and their role in producing revenues," Sobral told Reuters.

Sobral, whose organisation is based in Yokohama, Japan, said the main challenge of the tropical forest industry was to find a model of exploitation that was sustainable and profitable.

The problem was that tropical forests did not compete economically with other land uses. "Sustainable tropical forest management is not bringing in enough resources for the producing countries," he said.

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