European forests – common benefits, shared responsabilities

Under the slogan “Living Forest Summit”, ministers responsible for forests from 41 European countries and a representative of the European Union as well as representatives of 4 non-European countries and 24 international organisations gathered at the Fourth Ministerial Conference in April 2003 in Vienna under the joint chairmanship of Austria and Poland.

Forty European countries and the European Community signed the Vienna Declaration “European Forests – Common Benefits, Shared Responsibilities” and adopted five Vienna Resolutions. The Vienna Declaration highlights the multiple roles of forests in relation to rural livelihood and urban societies, addresses the significance of strong partnerships between the forest sector and other sectors and underlines the importance to tackle global challenges. The Vienna Resolutions focus on cross-sectoral co-operation and national forest programmes, economic viability of sustainable forest management, social and cultural aspects, forest biological diversity as well as forests and climate change. Furthermore, the ministers responsible for forests adopted a new framework for co-operation between the MCPFE and the ministerial process Environment for Europe/Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy, which was also adopted by the ministers for environment at the Fifth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” (May 2003).

For the first time, a multi-stakeholder dialogue was initiated as an integral part of the Ministerial Conference. Five stakeholder groups (forest owners, forest industry, social non-governmental organisations (NGOs), environmental NGOs and the scientific community) held discussions with the European ministers, putting their points of view on the protection and sustainable management of forests across at the Conference. All participants recognised the need of efficient implementation of the MCPFE resolutions. Consequently, as a follow-up of the Vienna Conference, the MCPFE will establish a new Work Programme in order to put into action all commitments made at the Living Forest.

A non-exhaustive list of the pan-European activities achieved for the implementation of the ministerial commitments in the period between Lisbon and Vienna Ministerial Conference is presented below.