MCPFE Work Programme under development
In January 2008, the Liaison Unit of the MCPFE process  moved from Warsaw to Oslo, following the hand-over of the responsibility for its coordination from Poland to Norway at the fifth Ministerial Conference in Warsaw in November 2007.
The new Liaison Unit organized an expert level meeting in Oslo on 7-8 May 2008 and initiated discussions on actions to implement the commitments of the Warsaw Conference. The meeting discussed a draft work programme, developed by the General Coordinating Committee (Germany, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, and Spain ), and shared information on forest policy issues in Europe and at the global level. In addition to proposing actions to implement the Warsaw commitments, the draft work programme also includes actions to define the strategic direction of the MCPFE process in order to facilitate discussions on the future role of the MCPFE process and as a means to continue the dialogue and cooperation on forest policy in Europe.
The new work programme is divided into five programme elements, i.e. 1) sustainable forest management and climate change; 2) wood mobilization and sound use of wood; 3) multiple forest ecosystem services, including forests and water; 4) regional-global cooperation and partnership; and 5) cross-cutting activities. Actions proposed under each programme element mainly include those in which the Liaison Unit Oslo has a leading role. For this reason, many delegates from the participating countries and observer organizations expressed their interest to include additional actions into the work programme. The revised version of the work programme includes EUFORGEN and EUFGIS as international activities supportive to the follow-up of the Warsaw Conference.
Regarding the strategic direction of the MCPFE process, the meeting concluded that the Liaison Unit Oslo should assign a small group of external experts to assessing the progress made and obstacles faced in implementing the commitments made by the five Ministerial Conferences. This was based on the decision by the ministers responsible for forests, as part of the Warsaw Declaration. The external review should be finalized by the end of 2009.
Simultaneously with the external review, the meeting agreed to establish a working group to explore the potential added value of and options for a legally binding agreement on forests in the pan-European region. The working group should also provide its findings by the end of 2009. Before the meeting reached an agreement on establishing the working group, a long discussion took place. Some delegates pointed out that the Warsaw Declaration does not provide a clear mandate for a legally binding agreement, although ministers of several countries had suggested at the Warsaw Conference that European countries could explore this avenue, as negotiations on legally binding instruments on forests have failed at the global level within the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF). Others stressed that the working group should first carefully analyze both benefits and shortfalls of a legally binding agreement before identifying any options for proceeding in this regard. Several delegates were also in favour of/proposed postponing exploring options for a legally binding agreement until the external review had been completed.
In general, most of the delegates were in favour of finding new and innovative ways of continuing the fruitful collaboration on forests in Europe instead of drafting additional declarations and resolutions for the next Ministerial Conference. However, it was noted that the MCPFE process should also explore other options rather than just focusing its efforts on one single option, i.e. the legally binding agreement.
The MCPFE process has highlighted the importance of forest genetic resources in many Ministerial Conferences. Most recently, as part of the Warsaw Declaration, European countries agreed to maintain and enhance the biological diversity of forests, including their genetic resources, through sustainable forest management. Therefore, if the countries later decide to initiate a negotiation process for developing a legally binding agreement on forests in Europe, the agreement is also likely to address forest genetic resources to support the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
As part of the work programme, the MCPFE process also agreed to collaborate closely with FAO, the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the European Commission (EC) in finalizing preparations for the Pan-European Forest Week on 20-24 October 2008. It is planned that the EC will host a one-day event in Brussels on 20 October and that FAO will host all other sessions in Rome on 21-24 October. The final programme for the Forest Week is currently under preparation and it will be announced soon.
The MCPFE process will continue the discussions on its activities and the work programme during the next expert level meeting which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland on 12-13 November 2008. Further information is available at the MCPFE website .