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Opening Remarks, Ambet Yuson - BWI

PEFC GENERAL ASSEMBLY


Montreux, 10 December 2015
As General Secretary of BWI, the worlds largest global union federation of forest, wood,
and construction workers, it is an honour to address your assembly.
Since the beginning, BWI has been a proud partner with PEFC. As the focal point for
Agenda 21 forest workers within the UN structure and as the representative for 15
million workers who depend on Sustainable Forest Management and Sustainable Forest
products for their livelihoods, I congratulate you for what you have achieved / and for
what lies ahead.
As to the future, there appears to be the beginning of an international consensus. It can
be seen in terms of how quickly the nations of the world accepted the Sustainable
Development goals. It can be seen in the commonality of the public pronouncements / of
both the Islamic and Catholic religions, / and of course it can be seen at the discussions
at Climate Change Conference in Paris.
Lets first look at the basic concepts of this consensus / and then the challenges and
opportunities it presents for forests / and those who manage and live in them. The
emerging consensus has five parts. They are:
1st Environmental degradation is the result of social degradation
2nd Global wealth cannot continue to be concentrated in a few nations or among
a few elites
3rd The worlds poor are not poor because they are lacking, / but rather because
the worlds rich are able to convert their wealth into power to preserve their status
quo
4th There are real limits to economic growth,
and 5th Market cannot by themselves deliver sustainable development
Each one of these five statements holds an endless range of policy options and
ramifications for how forests are managed.
Once the conversation becomes
sophisticated enough to start combining the five areas, / we reach an infinite number of
options very quickly. Let me address just a few points.
The drivers for environmental destruction are social. Some are economic: greed,
subsistence, poverty, unemployment, war, the current imbalance of power between

Opening Remarks, Ambet Yuson BWI

PEFC General Assembly

urban and rural; and global north and south. Seeking to find purely environmental policy
solutions / have failed and will continue to fail because they are not addressing the root
cause of the crisis. This also helps to understand / why technical solutions have been
relatively ineffective; / they tend to ignore the social component.
The Islamic Declaration on Climate Change calls on all:
To set in motion a fresh model of wellbeing, / based on an alternative to the
financial model which depletes resources, / degrades the environment, / and
deepens inequality.
The Catholic Church clarified the relationship with its statement:
We have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social
approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so
as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

When the worlds two largest religions agree and point to the need - to address social
justice issues as a precursor to environmental issues perhaps we should all take note.
Poverty and inequality stand first in line / as prime drivers of deforestation and forest
degradation. This is true in rural areas of OECD countries / as it is in the poorest highforest-cover countries in the world. The actions and consequences of how forestdependent populations and forests suffer - may differ / but the drivers are universal.
Your next round of standards must recognise this / and put in place frameworks to help
change this. This means, finding ways to audit social standards that are both effective
and inexpensive. A forest products company that pays its CEO 200 or 300 times / what
it pays its workers is not sustainable. Logs processed in the most dangerous sawmill in
the world / cannot produce forest products that carry anyones logo of sustainability.
We are currently in a struggle with FSC / because of their refusal to enforce the
minimum labor standards that make up the worlds consensus the ILO core labor
standards. For more than a year, FSC has and continues to certify forest products from
Fiji Pine / even after the military junta that rules the country sanctioned the disbanding
of all unions in this sector; / and permitted the abrogation of all collective bargained
agreements by the company. Even FSC must recognise that abusing and using up
human-resource / is as wrong as abusing natural-resources.
There is an obvious problem with the myth of continuous economic growth in a climateconstrained environment. There simply isnt enough stuff in the world to provide

Opening Remarks, Ambet Yuson BWI

PEFC General Assembly

every consumer a lifestyle / anywhere near the lifestyle of a handful of OECD countries.
We have known this for more than 3 decades, / yet no one is willing to acknowledge that
there are limits.
In any given year, billions of dollars are transferred from the global south to the global
north / in the form of international trade. As challenging as these numbers are to those
who still believe / that foreign direct investment can create and promote human
development in the global south, / the situation is still worse. It is worse because these
numbers do not account for the social and environmental disruption of urbanisation,/
reduction in local agricultural prices and availability, / and the depletion of the global
souths resources / as its forests are converted to palm oil plantations or its native forest
products sector is displaced by MNC joint ventures funded by OECD money.
Based on any definition of industrial development, the world has seen the development
of the global south. Today 79% of all industrial workers reside in the global south, / yet
food insecurity, poverty, and foregone human development remains almost unabated.
In fact, as the global south has been industrialising, deforesting, and adding to its
contribution of green gasses, / its share of global wealth has been decreasing. The 48
least developed countries now have a lower share of annual per capital GDP of the
G7 / than they did 40 years ago. Likewise the same trend holds for all developing
countries relative to the G7.
The global north using up precious materials and resources in the global south / cannot
go on forever. As forest landowners and participants of the forest products-value-chain,
you know as well as I / that there are finite limits to growth. You also experience the
reality that wealth in the global forest-supply-chain tends to reside at the top. This
characteristic is a major driver for unsustainable actions. Simply doing more of the
same, / promoting more production of consumer goods for global northern-fashion and
consumerism / is a path to social and environmental catastrophe.
The last component of the emerging global consensus is that market-based actions
cannot deliver sustainable development. Market-based solutions cannot keep the earths
temperature below 2 degrees. More likely, markets are part of the problem not the
solution. However, with strict government guidance, with clear limits on growth and the
size and power / accruing to the private sector, markets can be one tool to help realign
our economy / to a more circular and sustainable approach. However, it is important to
remember that those who are benefiting disproportionally from the current distribution of
power and money / will fight to maintain their status even at the expense of the planet.

Opening Remarks, Ambet Yuson BWI

PEFC General Assembly

My question for you as members and stakeholders of PEFC is: what are you willing to
do to fight for / not only sustainable forest but for sustainable development?
Your founders created a system designed to be an advocate and fighter to defend your
members. My organisation, BWI was created for the same purpose. Today what
threatens my 15 million members, I think also threatens your members.
As you commence your next set of standard setting/, please keep in mind / that forestry
practices and forestry production that promotes rural poverty isnt sustainable. Workers
who cant afford to buy the products they make / or who face food insecurity / are not in
a sustainable situation. I know that your comfort zone is more often / dealing with the
forests rather than the forest-dependent-populations / but as Pope Francis stated
social degradation is the root cause of environmental degradation. Until forest
dependent populations including workers / have a voice, / have a stake, / do not merely
survive but thrive within healthy rural communities, / you will never stop deforestation,
conversions and illegal logging. Until you become a strong voice for socially sustainable
forestry, / you will not win for your members what they want most that is to be left
alone to manage their family forests or public forests without political intervention.
I believe that there is a common rural culture that transcends national boundaries and
political issues. I think there is a wide range of areas where we share common goals. I
look forward with the greatest anticipation to have my organisation work with PEFC, and
to have our members get to know your members in the local communities.
Together / we could be a formidable force for social and environmental justice. Our
combined voice would not only be heard in Brussels and Washington / but also in Kuala
Lumpur, Jakarta, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg and many other places.
BWI trade union movement is ready to expand our partnership if you are, the choice is
yours.
I would like to end my remarks with a personal note to my good friend Bill Street. Many
of you know Bill for his tenacity, commitment, and incredible energy. But I know Bill as a
kindred spirit who has been with me in my early stages in the global trade union
movement. I know Bill as someone who is able to build partnerships amongst the
oddest mixed group of people. I know Bill as someone who I can sit till the wee hours of
the night to discuss and strategise about forest certification, climate change, how to
improve workers lives. To BWI, Bill's is known for this quote -- Wood is Good. Bill,
indeed Wood is Good but today, you are the best. Bill, my friend, I salute you.

Opening Remarks, Ambet Yuson BWI

PEFC General Assembly