Sorbonne conference on forest protection


Under the scientific direction of Marine They, Professor of Public Law at Sorbonne Paris Nord University and Director of IDPS, a symposium entitled "Protecting forests in the face of environmental challenges: international law, European law, national law" will be held on September 27 and 28, 2023 at Campus Condorcet (Aubervilliers).


This symposium, in which ATIBT will be taking part, is organized by the Institut de droit public, sciences politiques et sociales (IDPS) and the Structure fédérative des communs, in partnership with the Institut de Recherche Juridique Interdisciplinaire (IRJI François-Rabelais) of the University of Tours, and with the participation of the International Law Association (ADI/ILA).

At COP 26, held in Glasgow in November 2021, over one hundred states representing at least 85% of the world's forests (including Brazil, China and Russia) signed the Declaration on Forests and Land Use. In it, they pledged to work together to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, in recognition of the role forests play in combating climate change. Like the oceans, forests play a central role in regulating the climate through their capacity to absorb large quantities of carbon. Protecting these ecosystems is therefore essential not only for preserving biodiversity, but also for curbing global warming. Forests also play an important social role for local populations, providing both habitat and a means of subsistence. For this reason, it would seem appropriate for States to agree, on an international scale, on the modalities of sustainable forest management, which would make it possible to preserve them for future generations while allowing reasonable uses.

Until now, however, the question of establishing an international forestry policy has been relegated to the background of international negotiations on environmental preservation. The protection afforded to forests in the face of destructive factors such as climate change, desertification and illegal logging is therefore fragmented, included in multiple instruments that do not directly concern forests, and involves the adoption of soft-law standards rather than the definition of binding rules.

This low level of normative activity contrasts with the intense institutional activity carried out within the United Nations, in particular within the framework of the International Arrangement on Forests, which was established in 2000 and includes the United Nations Forum on Forests. Furthermore, the apparent lack of binding standards seems to be explained by the concern of States to preserve their territorial sovereignty and to continue to exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the management of their forests. Finally, economic interests, and in particular the rules of the World Trade Organization, are likely to hinder the establishment of rules at international level to protect forests against the mercantilization that is detrimental to their preservation.

Does this mean that existing mechanisms are ineffective? The aim of this symposium is precisely to shed light on the range of standards - binding or otherwise - and institutional initiatives which, while they do not allow us to conclude a priori that a genuine international forestry policy exists (in the image of that which has been put in place in French law, for example), can in fact have a real impact on forest preservation. In this respect, the desirability of adopting an international treaty dealing specifically with forests is worth considering.

As the last symposium on the subject of forests under international law was the subject of a written publication in 2002, it seems particularly appropriate to revisit the subject in the light of recent developments. The issue of international protection of forests recently came back into the spotlight in the context of COP 26 and the Regulation adopted by the European Union in May 2023. It has also been renewed by various institutional works carried out since the early 2000s, as evidenced in particular by the adoption of the United Nations Strategic Plan on Forests (2017-2030). The aim of this symposium is therefore to bring together academics and practitioners to take a fresh look at the issue, and through themes that have not yet been widely addressed.