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Global Timber Forum looks to future at Rome summit

The Global Timber Forum (GTF) is a communications channel and facilitator, supporting the timber industry worldwide in its roles as supplier of the most sustainable and versatile building and manufacturing material and as guardian of a vital environmental resource. It has now unveiled key new developments and secured long-term funding to enhance its capabilities. This week the GTF team and supporters meet in Rome to discuss further plans for the future.

At the Rome meeting, held at the UNFAO headquarters from May 10-12, the GTF will unveil the basis of a new long-term structure, following its establishment as a legal entity, with registration as a UK not-for-profit organisation. Delegates will identify priority activities for the next few years and a World Resources Institute needs survey, outlining international views on how the GTF should evolve, will be discussed too.

The GTF launched in 2013 to meet the timber and forestry sectors’ need for a neutral international best practice and information exchange and hub for building mutual support and cooperation between suppliers and buyers, businesses large and small, developed and developing countries.

The interactive GTF website – www.gtf-info.com – focuses on the sectors’ core news and information topics; from making the most of the timber resource and marketing, to green building and anti-illegal timber trade measures. It also features a live, impartial open access forum, where visitors can discuss issues, exchange ideas and highlight latest technical and business developments.

Filling a communication gap
“By providing information and knowledge through a dedicated business-to-business channel, the GTF fills a significant gap in communication between consumer and producer companies in the industry,” said Robert Simpson, Manager of the UNFAO EU FLEGT Programme, a key GTF supporter.

Robert Simpson, UN FAO

Robert Simpson

The GTF’s stated aim is not just to build trade links. It is also to give the sector, notably small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), a stronger voice to market and decision makers and, by facilitating greater cross-trade collaboration, support development of long-term solutions to current challenges.

Another core GTF function is coordinating on-the-ground projects and communications to build support for responsible trade and to help businesses meet national and regional market legality requirements, such as those of the EU Timber Regulation, US Lacey Act and Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation. And SMEs and their trade federations, are a prime focus for this work too.

“There’s a clear business case for ‘going legal’, but it’s more difficult for supplier SMEs,” said Mr Simpson. “The GTF connects them with buyer markets, helping them through latest legality regulation and encouraging private sector engagement in wider governance issues.”

The GTF additionally undertakes reports and analysis on other headline trade issues based on direct industry liaison. And initiating and enabling face-to-face networking and exchange is another activity, with the GTF 2015 Summit in Shanghai drawing speakers and delegates from around the world, addressing topics from market access, to timber building.

New support, new structure
The GTF’s achievements so far have been exciting. Latest developments build on them and lay foundations for the future. First is new funding, secured from governmental bodies focused on environmental, forestry and timber sector issues; the UNFAO FLEGT Programme and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

“This support will enable the GTF to grow into the body the timber sector clearly wants and needs,” said GTF Director George White.

George White, GTF

George White

At the Rome meeting, new members will also be introduced as part of moves to broaden the GTF board to represent the full spectrum of producer and consumer countries and regions worldwide. Looking forward, the GTF’s ambition is to encourage still greater engagement in its activities across the timber trade worldwide – to truly be the Global Timber Forum.

For more: Rachel Butler – GTF Executive Director, rachelbutler@gtf-info.com