ITTO, JICA and tropical forest ‘superpowers’ explore paths toward sustainable forestry

ITTO underlined stepped-up investment and international cooperation to advance sustainable tropical forestry at a symposium on tropical forest conservation that brought together three ‘superpowers’ of the sector in Tokyo, Japan on 20 May 2024.

Training in measuring tree diameters to estimate carbon stocks in the Meru Betiri National Park, East Java, Indonesia, as part of an ITTO project (Image: FORDA)

Representatives of Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia — the three countries with the largest share of the world’s tropical forests — took part in the symposium co-organised by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, and supported by Japan’s Forestry Agency, Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency, Sumitomo Forestry and ITTO.

On behalf of ITTO executive director Sheam Satkuru, ITTO director of trade and industry Nurudeen Iddrisu said the event, titled ‘Conserving the lungs of the earth: Understanding the current state, challenges and conservation strategies of the world’s three major tropical forests’, was an opportunity to explore solutions to ongoing tropical deforestation.

“We can see this symposium also as a summit of tropical forest superpowers,” Dr Iddrisu said in opening remarks at the symposium.

He said the tropical forests of the Amazon, the Congo basin and the Borneo–Mekong South Asian Basin together “play a crucial role in stabilising the global climate, hosting biodiversity, supporting livelihoods and fulfilling societal needs through the reliable provision of forest goods and ecosystem services.”

Yet all three basins also face threats from human activities and climate change. For tropical forest countries trying to contribute to global goals on climate, biodiversity and sustainable development, “steadfast international support is vital for them to succeed,” Dr Iddrisu added.

“It is clear that decisive action and large-scale investments are urgently needed to secure the sustainable management of tropical forests in these countries”, he said.

Dr Iddrisu commended the work of JICA for its long-term assistance to ITTO and its member countries. ITTO and JICA renewed their longstanding collaboration in October 2022.

He pointed out that guidelines, criteria, indicators, and projects from ITTO’s almost 40-year history of collaborative work. Across the three basins, ITTO provided an appreciation of efforts needed from the international community and tropical countries to preserve these ecosystems.

Opening messages were also delivered by Morita Takahiro, JICA director general, global environment department and Morimoto Hidehiko, executive officer and general manager, president’s office, Mainichi newspaper. Both highlighted the importance of conserving tropical forests, and noted Noble Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai’s legacy from her visit to Japan in 2005, which influenced the creation of the ‘Mottainai’ campaign, aiming at promoting lifestyles that do not burden the global environment.

The symposium, held at JICA Global Plaza, included sessions on the importance of tropical forests for the global environment and challenges in the three main tropical forest countries, with keynote presentations from JICA and Kyoto University followed by reports from representatives of Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as a panel discussion on the roles of communities, the private sector and international cooperation.

At the closing of the symposium, Dr Iddrisu called donors, including JICA and other agencies within Japan government to increase funding to ITTO in support of sustainable forestry in these three ‘superpowers’ and elsewhere in the tropics.