The Earth Summit 1992: The Forest Principles
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Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992
Non-Legally Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on
the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of All Types of Forests
(a) The subject of forests is related to the entire range of environmental and
development issues and opportunities, including the right to socio-economic development on
a sustainable basis.
(b) The guiding objective of these principles is to contribute to the management,
conservation and sustainable development of forests and to provide for their multiple and
complementary functions and uses.
(c) Forestry issues and opportunities should be examined in a holistic and balanced
manner within the overall context of environment and development, taking into
consideration the multiple functions and uses of forests, including traditional uses, and
the likely economic and social stress when these uses are constrained or restricted, as
well as the potential for development that sustainable forest management can offer.
(d) These principles reflect a first global consensus on forests. In committing
themselves to the prompt implementation of these principles, countries also decide to keep
them under assessment for their adequacy with regard to further international cooperation
on forest issues.
(e) These principles should apply to all types of forests, both natural and planted, in
all geographical regions and climatic zones, including austral, boreal, subtemperate,
temperate, subtropical and tropical.
(f) All types of forests embody complex and unique ecological processes which are the
basis for their present and potential capacity to provide resources to satisfy human needs
as well as environmental values, and as such their sound management and conservation is of
concern to the Governments of the countries to which they belong and are of value to local
communities and to the environment as a whole.
(g) Forests are essential to economic development and the maintenance of all forms of
(h) Recognizing that the responsibility for forest management, conservation and
sustainable development is in many States allocated among federal/national,
state/provincial and local levels of government, each State, in accordance with its
constitution and/or national legislation, should pursue these principles at the
appropriate level of government.
Principles / Elements
1. (a) States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the
principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources
pursuant to their own environmental policies and have the responsibility to ensure that
activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of
other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
(b) The agreed full incremental cost of achieving benefits associated with forest
conservation and sustainable development requires increased international cooperation and
should be equitably shared by the international community.
2. (a) States have the sovereign and inalienable right to utilize, manage and develop
their forests in accordance with their development needs and level of socio-economic
development and on the basis of national policies consistent with sustainable development
and legislation, including the conversion of such areas for other uses within the overall
socio-economic development plan and based on rational land-use policies.
(b) Forest resources and forest lands should be sustainably managed to meet the social,
economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual needs of present and future generations.
These needs are for forest products and services, such as wood and wood products, water,
food, fodder, medicine, fuel, shelter, employment, recreation, habitats for wildlife,
landscape diversity, carbon sinks and reservoirs, and for other forest products.
Appropriate measures should be taken to protect forests against harmful effects of
pollution, including air-borne pollution, fires, pests and diseases, in order to maintain
their full multiple value.
(c) The provision of timely, reliable and accurate information on forests and forest
ecosystems is essential for public understanding and informed decision-making and should
(d) Governments should promote and provide opportunities for the participation of
interested parties, including local communities and indigenous people, industries, labour,
non-governmental organizations and individuals, forest dwellers and women, in the
development, implementation and planning of national forest policies.
3. (a) National policies and strategies should provide a framework for increased
efforts, including the development and strengthening of institutions and programmes for
the management, conservation and sustainable development of forests and forest lands.
(b) International institutional arrangements, building on those organizations and
mechanisms already in existence, as appropriate, should facilitate international
cooperation in the field of forests.
(c) All aspects of environmental protection and social and economic development as they
relate to forests and forest lands should be integrated and comprehensive.
4. The vital role of all types of forests in maintaining the ecological processes and
balance at the local, national, regional and global levels through, inter alia, their role
in protecting fragile ecosystems, watersheds and freshwater resources and as rich
storehouses of biodiversity and biological resources and sources of genetic material for
biotechnology products, as well as photosynthesis, should be recognized.
5. (a) National forest policies should recognize and duly support the identity, culture
and the rights of indigenous people, their communities and other communities and forest
dwellers. Appropriate conditions should be promoted for these groups to enable them to
have an economic stake in forest use, perform economic activities, and achieve and
maintain cultural identity and social organization, as well as adequate levels of
livelihood and well-being, through, inter alia, those land tenure arrangements which serve
as incentives for the sustainable management of forests.
(b) The full participation of women in all aspects of the management, conservation and
sustainable development of forests should be actively promoted.
6. (a) All types of forests play an important role in meeting energy requirements
through the provision of a renewable source of bio-energy, particularly in developing
countries, and the demands for fuelwood for household and industrial needs should be met
through sustainable forest management, afforestation and reforestation. To this end, the
potential contribution of plantations of both indigenous and introduced species for the
provision of both fuel and industrial wood should be recognized.
(b) National policies and programmes should take into account the relationship, where
it exists, between the conservation, management and sustainable development of forests and
all aspects related to the production, consumption, recycling and/or final disposal of
(c) Decisions taken on the management, conservation and sustainable development of
forest resources should benefit, to the extent practicable, from a comprehensive
assessment of economic and non-economic values of forest goods and services and of the
environmental costs and benefits. The development and improvement of methodologies for
such evaluations should be promoted.
(d) The role of planted forests and permanent agricultural crops as sustainable and
environmentally sound sources of renewable energy and industrial raw material should be
recognized, enhanced and promoted. Their contribution to the maintenance of ecological
processes, to offsetting pressure on primary/old-growth forest and to providing regional
employment and development with the adequate involvement of local inhabitants should be
recognized and enhanced.
(e) Natural forests also constitute a source of goods and services, and their
conservation, sustainable management and use should be promoted.
7. (a) Efforts should be made to promote a supportive international economic climate
conducive to sustained and environmentally sound development of forests in all countries,
which include, inter alia, the promotion of sustainable patterns of production and
consumption, the eradication of poverty and the promotion of food security.
(b) Specific financial resources should be provided to developing countries with
significant forest areas which establish programmes for the conservation of forests
including protected natural forest areas. These resources should be directed notably to
economic sectors which would stimulate economic and social substitution activities.
8. (a) Efforts should be undertaken towards the greening of the world. All countries,
notably developed countries, should take positive and transparent action towards
reforestation, afforestation and forest conservation, as appropriate.
(b) Efforts to maintain and increase forest cover and forest productivity should be
undertaken in ecologically, economically and socially sound ways through the
rehabilitation, reforestation and re-establishment of trees and forests on unproductive,
degraded and deforested lands, as well as through the management of existing forest
(c) The implementation of national policies and programmes aimed at forest management,
conservation and sustainable development, particularly in developing countries, should be
supported by international financial and technical cooperation, including through the
private sector, where appropriate.
(d) Sustainable forest management and use should be carried out in accordance with
national development policies and priorities and on the basis of environmentally sound
national guidelines. In the formulation of such guidelines, account should be taken, as
appropriate and if applicable, of relevant internationally agreed methodologies and
(e) Forest management should be integrated with management of adjacent areas so as to
maintain ecological balance and sustainable productivity.
(f) National policies and/or legislation aimed at management, conservation and
sustainable development of forests should include the protection of ecologically viable
representative or unique examples of forests, including primary/old-growth forests,
cultural, spiritual, historical, religious and other unique and valued forests of national
(g) Access to biological resources, including genetic material, shall be with due
regard to the sovereign rights of the countries where the forests are located and to the
sharing on mutually agreed terms of technology and profits from biotechnology products
that are derived from these resources.
(h) National policies should ensure that environmental impact assessments should be
carried out where actions are likely to have significant adverse impacts on important
forest resources, and where such actions are subject to a decision of a competent national
9. (a) The efforts of developing countries to strengthen the management, conservation
and sustainable development of their forest resources should be supported by the
international community, taking into account the importance of redressing external
indebtedness, particularly where aggravated by the net transfer of resources to developed
countries, as well as the problem of achieving at least the replacement value of forests
through improved market access for forest products, especially processed products. In this
respect, special attention should also be given to the countries undergoing the process of
transition to market economies.
(b) The problems that hinder efforts to attain the conservation and sustainable use of
forest resources and that stem from the lack of alternative options available to local
communities, in particular the urban poor and poor rural populations who are economically
and socially dependent on forests and forest resources, should be addressed by Governments
and the international community.
(c) National policy formulation with respect to all types of forests should take
account of the pressures and demands imposed on forest ecosystems and resources from
influencing factors outside the forest sector, and intersectoral means of dealing with
these pressures and demands should be sought.
10. New and additional financial resources should be provided to developing countries
to enable them to sustainably manage, conserve and develop their forest resources,
including through afforestation, reforestation and combating deforestation and forest and
11. In order to enable, in particular, developing countries to enhance their endogenous
capacity and to better manage, conserve and develop their forest resources, the access to
and transfer of environmentally sound technologies and corresponding know-how on
favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed, in
accordance with the relevant provisions of Agenda 21, should be promoted, facilitated and
financed, as appropriate.
12. (a) Scientific research, forest inventories and assessments carried out by national
institutions which take into account, where relevant, biological, physical, social and
economic variables, as well as technological development and its application in the field
of sustainable forest management, conservation and development, should be strengthened
through effective modalities, including international cooperation. In this context,
attention should also be given to research and development of sustainably harvested
(b) National and, where appropriate, regional and international institutional
capabilities in education, training, science, technology, economics, anthropology and
social aspects of forests and forest management are essential to the conservation and
sustainable development of forests and should be strengthened.
(c) International exchange of information on the results of forest and forest
management research and development should be enhanced and broadened, as appropriate,
making full use of education and training institutions, including those in the private
(d) Appropriate indigenous capacity and local knowledge regarding the conservation and
sustainable development of forests should, through institutional and financial support and
in collaboration with the people in the local communities concerned, be recognized,
respected, recorded, developed and, as appropriate, introduced in the implementation of
programmes. Benefits arising from the utilization of indigenous knowledge should therefore
be equitably shared with such people.
13. (a) Trade in forest products should be based on non-discriminatory and
multilaterally agreed rules and procedures consistent with international trade law and
practices. In this context, open and free international trade in forest products should be
(b) Reduction or removal of tariff barriers and impediments to the provision of better
market access and better prices for higher value-added forest products and their local
processing should be encouraged to enable producer countries to better conserve and manage
their renewable forest resources.
(c) Incorporation of environmental costs and benefits into market forces and
mechanisms, in order to achieve forest conservation and sustainable development, should be
encouraged both domestically and internationally.
(d) Forest conservation and sustainable development policies should be integrated with
economic, trade and other relevant policies.
(e) Fiscal, trade, industrial, transportation and other policies and practices that may
lead to forest degradation should be avoided. Adequate policies, aimed at management,
conservation and sustainable development of forests, including, where appropriate,
incentives, should be encouraged.
14. Unilateral measures, incompatible with international obligations or agreements, to
restrict and/or ban international trade in timber or other forest products should be
removed or avoided, in order to attain long-term sustainable forest management.
15. Pollutants, particularly air-borne pollutants, including those responsible for
acidic deposition, that are harmful to the health of forest ecosystems at the local,
national, regional and global levels should be controlled.