|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
United Nations Forum on Forests
4th Meeting (AM)
PREPARATIONS FOR 2011 INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF FORESTS
LAUNCHED BY UNITED NATIONS FORUM
The United Nations Forum on Forests officially launched the beginning of preparations for the 2011 International Year of Forests this morning, with speakers, representing some of the world’s greatest and most diverse ecosystems, stressing the need to use the observance of the International Year as a catalyst for raising global awareness of the urgent need to protect the planet’s fragile forest resources.
Emphasizing the need for forests to remain high on the global agenda, Croatia’s Assistant for Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, Ivica Grbac noted that forests, as the most complex continental ecosystems, were much more important to society than their mere statistically calculated share of total gross domestic product. Forests had many other roles, including the purification of water and air, protection against soil erosion and heavy winds and preservation of biological diversity. Recalling that Croatia had initiated the General Assembly resolution designating 2011 as the International Year of Forests, he invited all countries to begin preparations for 2011, which, he added, must not be treated as “mission accomplished”.
Setting the stage to address the most crucial issues affecting forests and the wider development agenda, the International Year’s observance would be an important commemoration for forests and the forestry community, Indonesia’s Minister of Forestry M.S. Kaban said. As one of the world’s largest rainforest countries, Indonesia played an active role in sustainable forest management. For many countries, especially developing countries, forests signified one of the most important resources for development and poverty eradication. As such, the International Year needed to highlight forests as an important part of development and a crucial link with the many other issues being addressed at the global level.
While Costa Rica’s forests were not as important in terms of world forest coverage, in 2005 that country had been able to double its forest coverage, Costa Rica’s Vice Minister of Environment Jorge Rodriguez explained. The International Year should ensure progress in consolidating sustainable forest management of all types. At the international level, the Year should aim to consolidate the global dialogue on forests. At the regional level, the Year could seek to ensure the necessary skills for forest management. And, at the ecological level, a holistic approach was needed to manage world’s forest resources. With some 60 per cent of ecosystems being degraded or exploited in a non-sustainable manner, mankind’s very survival was at stake. In view of the coming crisis, countries could not afford to be apathetic.
Also stressing the need for action at all levels, Gabon’s Minister for Forests, Fisheries and National Parks, Emile Doumba, said the past decade had seen the international community’s recognition of the threats to various ecosystems, particularly tropical ecosystems. Strategies taken had enabled the development of management tools to ensure sustainable forest management. Despite such efforts, however, enormous challenges remained in achieving conservation goals. With deforestation continuing around the world, it was important to further strengthen already existing strategies. International public opinion must be made aware of what was at stake. He hoped the International Year would achieve that objective.
Opening the meeting, Pekka Patosaari, the Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, said the International Year of Forests, designated by the General Assembly in its resolution 61/193 of December 2006, would be a celebration of forests and their importance in everyday life. A worldwide endeavour taking place some two decades after the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio and ten years after the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, the International Year would serve as a major international stimulus for enhancing awareness and mobilizing action for the successful promotion of sustainable forest management. The Year would also serve as an effective tool in heightening awareness of the role of forests in the maintenance of the planet’s vigour and vitality, as well as in the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals.
Agnieszka Bolesta, Under-Secretary of State, on behalf of Jan Szyszko, Minister of Poland, and Jose Cibrian Tovar, Director General of the National Forest Commission of Mexico also participated in the event for the International Year
Following this morning’s event, the Forum continued its general discussion. Sudan’s representative, on behalf of the African Group, said that continent hosted the world’s second largest block of humid tropical forests in the Congo Basin and adjoining areas. African countries shared the concern and responsibility to ensure sustainable forest management for their ecological stability. It had made notable progress in the way forests were managed, and forest policies and legislation in many countries had been revised to match present realities. Many of those efforts, however, had been process-oriented measures to improve sustainable forest management. Investment in forestry was critical to complementing them and making sustainable forest management a reality, he said.
The representatives of Costa Rica, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, on behalf of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, also addressed the Forum.
The Forum also heard several presentations on the background paper on means of implementation, which was commissioned by the Programme on Forests in response to the outcomes of the Forum’s sixth session. A presentation was also made on the Bureau paper on the Global Forest Partnership Trust. The representatives of Australia, Germany, Cuba, the United States and Venezuela made brief statements following that presentation.
Performing as a part of today’s launch of preparations for the International Year was the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. Jim Papoulis, Composer and Founder of the Foundation for Small Voices of the United States, also spoke. Shamsul Momen Palash of the Organization of Art for children and Proprietor of BanChashi Nursery in Bangladesh also made a statement.
The United Nations Forum on Forests will meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 April, to continue its work.
The United Nations Forum on Forests met this morning to launch preparations for the 2011 International Year of Forests.
Opening the meeting, PEKKA PATOSAARI, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, noted that the Forum was meeting as part of its seventh session to mark the beginning of preparations for the International Year. The General Assembly, in its recently adopted resolution 61/193, had declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests. He hoped that the occasion would serve as a platform for significant pledges in support of the year. Many of the challenges for the successful promotion of sustainable forest management required a major international stimulus to enhance awareness and mobilize real action. The International Year would be such a stimulus.
Broad public participation was vital for bringing real change to how the world’s forests were managed, he said. As children and youth were the future implementers of sustainable forest management, education could be an important tool in raising awareness. A year dedicated to celebrating the importance of forests had the potential to promote awareness on the multifaceted nature of sustainable forest management and highlight the ecological, economic and social aspects of forests. When declaring 2011 as the International Year of Forests, the Assembly had requested the Forum’s Secretariat to serve as the focal point for implementing the Year. Actors and stakeholders at all levels needed to be encouraged to find ways to mobilize action for a better future with trees and forests. The International Year would add impetus to calls for national and international action for the promotion of sustainable forest management. He hoped it would be an effective tool in heightening awareness of the role of forests in the maintenance of the planet’s vigour and vitality, as well as in the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.
A truly worldwide endeavour occurring some 20 years after Rio, and ten years after Johannesburg, the International Year of Forests would be a celebration of forests and their importance in everyday life, he concluded.
IVICA GRBAC, Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management of Croatia, recalled that his country had initiated and sponsored the General Assembly resolution designating 2011 the International Year of Forests. The guiding light that had motivated Croatia to initiate the process leading to that designation had come from the lessons learned from forestry, namely that forests, being the most complex continental ecosystems, were much more important to society than their mere statistically calculated share of total gross domestic product, which, according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates, amounted to a mere 1 per cent and exceeded 2 per cent in very few countries. Forests had many other roles, including the purification of water and air, protection against soil erosion and heavy winds and preservation of biological diversity.
He said that, due to its specific history, location and geomorphology, Croatia had great biological diversity concentrated in a relatively small territory. On only 2.7 million hectares, which made up 48 per cent of its total surface area, Croatia had 260 indigenous wood species, only 60 of which were exploited for forestry-economic purposes. It was for precisely that reason that the country had more than 95 per cent of its forests regenerated by natural seed spreading. Regardless of harmful emissions and global climate change, Croatia was trying to insist on the natural regeneration and structure of its forests. Due to intense urbanization and decreasing cultivation of agricultural lands, there had been a widespread natural succession of vegetation occurring on that land, a process that was slow but very sustainable. Croatia had been able to apply the principles of sustainable forest management, while incorporating tradition at the same time.
Although countries had different priorities, the potential role of forests in mitigating climate change would be the most important by far, he stressed, adding that climate change mitigation was probably the greatest political challenge of the day. Croatia believed in the power deriving from nations joining together to stimulate the necessary scientific research and in the implementation of sustainable forest management as the strongest remedy for the earth’s polluted atmosphere. Croatia invited all countries that had not yet done so to begin preparatory activities for 2011, which must not be treated as “mission accomplished”. Forests must remain high on the global agenda and, in that respect, Croatia proposed the idea of the International Day of Forests, a day when the world would think of its forests anew each year.
EMILE DOUMBA, Minister for Forests, Fisheries and National Parks of Gabon, said the conservation and sustainable forest management of all types of forests were concerns shared throughout the world today. The past decade had seen the international community’s recognition of the threats to various ecosystems, particularly tropical ecosystems. Strategies taken had enabled the development of management tools to ensure sustainable forest management. Internationally, the proposals of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and the International Forum on Forests had made a major contribution to the principles, criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. At the regional level, for central Africa, efforts had been deployed to establish a conservation policy. The creation of the Central African Forests Commission, whose treaty entered into force in December 2006, demonstrated that political commitment. The Commission had established a common platform on which national and subregional actions were based.
Continuing, he said the Commission welcomed the progress achieved in implementing the plan, including the establishment of more than 4.5 million hectares of new protected areas, the creation of the “Tri-National de la Sangha Conservation Area”, a 2.8 million hectare area between Cameroon, Congo and the Central African Republic; and the establishment of sustainable development of forest concessions. The subregion had engaged in a certification process in the forest sector and an autonomous funding mechanism had also been established. Despite actions at the national, subregional and international levels, enormous challenges remained in achieving conservation goals. Deforestation continued in places. It was, therefore, important to further strengthen already existing strategies. In that regard, he commended resolution Assembly resolution 61/193 of December 2006, proclaiming 2011 as the International Year of Forests. International public opinion must be made aware of what was at stake. He hoped the International Year would contribute to the achievement of that objective.
Concluding, he stressed the importance of agreeing on a global framework for sustainable forest management by adopting a non-legally binding instrument for all types of forests. Without adequate financial resources, tropical forests would not survive the many pressures to which they were subjected. For the Congo basin, the cost of conservation had risen to more than some $1.5 billion. Additional resources were, therefore, needed.
M.S. KABAN, Minister of Forestry of Indonesia, said the International Year would be an important commemoration for forests and the forestry community. Supporting the world’s life system, forests were the world’s oxygen factories. Forests, moreover, played a role in climate change, as the wood they produced trapped and stored carbon dioxide. Equally important, forests were a source of livelihood for millions of people around the world, not to mention a source of food and shelter. For many countries, especially developing countries, forests signified one of the most important resources for development and poverty eradication. The world’s forests were vital to the well-being of the planet.
He said the observance of the International Year would be a momentous occasion, setting the stage to address the most crucial issues affecting forests as well as the wider development agenda that included poverty reduction. The International Year should ensure that it highlighted forests as an important element in development, and link with many other events and issues being addressed in the United Nations and other processes at the global level. At the national level, the International Year would revitalize the Indonesian Government’s motivation to implement sustainable forest management. For that reason, Indonesia greeted the International Year with great enthusiasm.
He then highlighted ongoing actions under Indonesia’s national forest programme, including the launch of the national campaign for forest and land rehabilitation, which involved relevant stakeholders planting in over two million hectares highly critical watersheds. The Government was also committed to managing its protected areas by developing model national parks. Since 2001, the Government had promoted the decentralization of forest resource management. All such efforts were meaningless if the major cause of forest degradation continued to take place, namely illegal logging and the associated illegal timber trade. At the current pace, natural forests in Indonesia could disappear in 10 years. A Government crackdown on illegal logging since 2004 had brought the guilty parties to justice. The results were promising. While some 3,000 cases had been reported in 2005, a year later, the number of cases had dropped to 916.
As one of the largest rainforest countries in the world, Indonesia was ready to play an active role in sustainable forest management, he said. Indonesia pledged to continue maintaining and securing forest biodiversity by protecting, extending and restoring protected areas. Some 55 national parks, including 30 million hectares of protected forests and 28 million hectares of other ecosystem types, had already been designated. At present, protected areas covered some 30 per cent of Indonesia’s territory, and it planned to expand those areas. The Government pledged to continue implementing the national campaign on forest and land rehabilitation, with a target of replanting five million hectares in 2009. It also pledged to reduce pressure on utilization of natural forests by continuing to promote effective forest plantation management and sustainably manage the remaining natural production forests. It also pledged to practice good forest governance and eliminate illegal practices on forest resources by enacting the law on combating illegal logging in 2008.
Noting the link between sustainable forest management with efforts to address climate change, he invited members to participate in the thirteenth session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Bali in December 2007.
DIDACE PEMBE BOKIAGA, Minister for Environment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the richest biodiversity in the world could be found in his country’s forests and it must be managed in a sustainable manner for the benefit of present and future generations. Such management would not be possible except through continuous research into strategies that could satisfy the common vision, on both the national and international levels. The Government had established a priority agenda for the renewal of all activities relating to forests and nature conservation as part of an ambitious programme known as “Forests and the Environment”. The programme involved all essential measures for sustainable forest management and the revitalization of the forestry sector for harmonious economic development.
The main axes of the priority agenda involved the following priority actions: good forestry governance; the discouragement of illegal exploitation; participatory multi-use zoning of forests; the opening of forests to alternative usage; avoidance of deforestation; carbon credits; regulation of the hydrographic cycle of the Congo river basin; fostering non-extractive usage and funding mechanisms; development of community forests; engagement of the private sector in forestry certification; renewal of forestation and reforestation activities; and establishment of a national forestry fund focused mainly on reforestation and redistribution of forest-product proceeds, taking into account the needs of the indigenous peoples.
JORGE RODRIGUEZ, Vice-Minister of Environment of Costa Rica, noted that Costa Rica’s forests were not as important in terms of world forest coverage. Yet, in 2005, Costa Rica had been able to double its forest coverage as a result of its strong political will and commitment to the planet. That had happened, however, at a great cost. The International Year should ensure progress in consolidating sustainable forest management of all types. At the international level, the Year should strengthen the Forum and consolidate the global dialogue on forests. At the regional level, it was necessary to ensure the necessary skills for forest management. Global objectives needed to be supported with concrete goals. Bringing into effect the non-legally binding instrument was necessary at the international level. Appropriate mechanisms were needed to obtain the necessary financing for sustainable forest management. At the ecological level, a holistic approach was needed to manage world resources.
Continuing, he said the 2011 International Year should allow for a frank and serene approach to forestry resources. Costa Rica had developed a framework of action, making it the first developing country to reduce carbon emissions. It also planned to promote sustainable energy, produce bio fuels and re-examine its biodiversity conservation policy to increase protected areas. At the world level, the news had not been good. Scientists had been warning for decades that human activities were degrading the environment. Some 60 per cent of ecosystems were being degraded or exploited in a non-sustainable manner. All people depended on world ecosystems, and mankind’s very survival was at stake. Lack of action was the worst enemy. Countries could not be apathetic and play a passive role in view of the coming crisis. Peace with the environment could not be created as long as parts of civilization suffered from hunger and poverty. Peace with the environment should create opportunities for development and seek a better quality of life for all who shared the planet.
AGNIESZKA BOLESTA, Under-Secretary of State, read a statement on behalf of Jan Szyszko, Minister for Environment of Poland, noting that, 15 years after the adoption of the Forest Principles and chapter XI of Agenda 21 on combating deforestation, forest resources continued to shrink at a frightening pace, while others were seriously degraded. On the other hand, the globalizing and fast developing world imposed new demands and challenges on forests. Concerted international efforts were required to raise awareness at all levels in order to strengthen the sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations. The International Year of Forests 2011 should be considered as one means towards that end.
Poland continued to emphasize the importance of the world community’s common responsibility for the proper management and preservation of forests, she said. It had signed and ratified the conventions on biodiversity and climate change and had implemented other international commitments related to forests. At the regional level, the country contributed actively to the development of regional forest policy by leading, together with Norway, Austria and Spain, the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe. Some significant outcomes of that cooperation included the principles and definition of sustainable forest management in Europe, the pan-European concept of national forest programmes and the most recent clarification of the relationship between two concepts: sustainable forest management and the ecosystem approach.
She said the fifth Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe would be held in Warsaw in early November with some 46 European countries and the European Union, supported by significant numbers of observer organizations. During that event, ministers were expected to debate the potential role of the Ministerial Conference as a regional process to contribute to the international dialogue on forests and to the implementation of the multi-year programme of work. The Warsaw Conference would also express the highest consideration for forests as a prerequisite for sound environment and sustainable development. The role of forests in mitigating climate change and protecting water quality and quantity would constitute the foremost subjects of the Ministerial Declaration and of two resolutions to be signed in Warsaw.
JOSE CIBRIAN TOVAR, Director General of the National Forest Commission of Mexico, said international cooperation and coordination were needed to ensure the development of policies and actions that would bring into balance the needs of mankind and continued natural resources. Mexico’s forestry effort was guided by its Strategic Forestry Programme to 2025. Beyond its borders, Mexico was also interested in sharing its experience in other parts of the world. To ensure greater standards in forestry, the Government had launched the most ambitious programme in its history in the area of forestry. The programme included comprehensive support for those lived in forests, including community forestry development, commercial plantations and reforestation.
Outlining the programme, he said it included three main objectives, namely reducing poverty and marginalization in forestry areas, generating development and economic growth and promoting forestry planning and organization to increase production of forestry resources. This year, some 250 million trees would be planted. The same effort would continue in the next few years, allowing Mexico to arrive at 2011 with a positive outcome. The International Year would be an excellent celebration. He confirmed Mexico’s commitment to contribute within the framework of international cooperation to ensure the benefits of forests for all of humankind.
SHAMSUL MOMEN PALASH, Organization of Art for Children and proprietor of the BanchChashi Nursery in Bangladesh, said he had recently initiated a campaign to plant a million trees through a vehicle known as the Child Forest Campaign. The future of the global environment required the development of a whole new generation of environmental leadership.
To avoid the extinction of the human race, it was essential to remember that humans were born ecologists, he said, stressing the need for environmental governance to replace politics. The planet could not afford to await further degradation. Grass-roots farmers in Bangladesh were doing great work, including one who was establishing “medicinal farms”. The Child Forest Campaign intended to plant trees from village to village, covering 1,000 villages in an effort to minimize the loss of core forests and create buffer zones to protect mainstream forestry. All those efforts would coincide with the International Year of Forests. Forests must be seen through the eyes of children, in order to save a sick planet.
In closing remarks, Forum Chairman, HANS HOOGEVEEN ( Netherlands), said the International Year would be a landmark event for the international forest arena. It should, however, be more than a celebration of forests. Awareness-raising was crucial. The Year should aim to achieve not only the global objectives, but should also have as its focus the interlinkages with poverty alleviation. While not prejudging the outcome of the Forum’s session, 2011 would include a four-year review of the implementation of the non-binding legal instrument and its new multi-year programme of work. The International Year would serve as an event to raise awareness and strengthen efforts for achieving sustainable forest management. Leadership was needed.
JIM PAPOULIS, Composer and Founder of the Foundation for Small Voices, United States, said a tree stood as a human did, balanced between the force of gravity and the upliftedness of the sky. The powerful voices of family, culture and global communities affected children, who, like trees, stood balanced between the realities of a planet in transformation and the ideals of securing a better world for decades to come. As a socially active composer, he travelled to meet children around the world. Songs were created from nothing more than the seeds of an idea. The children filled in the lyrics and the harmony. In a sense, they became a well balanced ecosystem -- a mini-forest determined to create something beautiful. A child, like a tree, needed nourishment to grow. Trees could spring up in all types of surroundings. The same seemed true of children -– they grew everywhere they were planted. Planting a tree, like nurturing a child, was a long, but vital process.
ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the African Group of States, noted that the continent hosted the world’s second largest block of humid tropical forests in the Congo Basin and adjoining areas, and African countries shared the concern and responsibility to ensure sustainable forest management for their ecological stability.
He said that in the period it had taken to negotiate the non-legally binding instrument, Africa had made notable progress in the way forests were managed. Forest policies and legislation in many countries had been revised to match present realities. Many countries were participating in the FAO-led national forest programme that continued to raise the profile of forests, increase participation in the forestry business by many stakeholders, and improve the likelihoods of many forest-dependent people and the environment in which they lived. Many countries were undertaking poverty reduction strategies in which forestry was increasingly important in alleviating poverty and environmental protection. Added to those efforts were several initiatives to combat illegal harvesting and trade in forest products.
However, many of those efforts had been process-oriented measures to improve sustainable forest management and investment in forestry was critical to complementing them and making sustainable forest management a reality, he said. With regard to the non-legally binding instrument, several countries had participated in the recent preparatory meeting in Libreville, Gabon, to review the Secretariat’s composite text, and had come up with some common positions.
He said the non-legally binding instrument should be concise, action-oriented and more concrete in strengthening country-level implementation. The African Group reiterated that the transition to sustainable forest management in most African countries had substantial incremental costs. Further elaboration was needed on how the Forest Fund proposed by some delegations, at the present and previous Forum sessions, would support actual country-level implementation.
The African Group was concerned that the composite text was not sufficiently focused on the actions necessary to support and ensure transfer of environmentally sound technologies, he said, adding that they were keen to see the inclusion of appropriate reference to internationally accepted codes. Regarding the country-led initiative, the multi-year programme of work must place greater emphasis on support to countries and subregional groups like the Congo Forest Basin Initiative and the African Forest Forum. The African Group supported the FAO statement made yesterday that sustainable forest management and the development of forests could only be achieved through investment, which would result in the transfer of environmentally sound technologies, capacity-building and sustainable financing.
JORGE RODRIGUEZ QUIROS ( Costa Rica) said the Forum had before it two main challenges – negotiating the content of the non-legally binding instrument and the multi-year programme of work, both of which were closely linked. Making them operational would mean the Forum would have the elements available for reaching the 2015 objectives. It was also necessary to strengthen financial resources to increase the area of the planet that was protected, as well as increasing goods and services from forests. Each country needed to decide to what extent it could contribute to the achievement of the global objectives. The multi-year programme of work should be the Forum’s reference point. A uniform system of reports was needed to monitor compliance with achievements and establish a basis for analysis. Emerging issues that were threatening to destroy the world’s forests needed to be discussed.
At the regional level, the 2011 International Year should allow for the consolidation of appropriate mechanisms to facilitate feedback between national efforts and world efforts, he said. The biannual periods should allow for the holding of regional dialogue, so that feedback could be provided to the Forum. Each region should find the best way to organize itself on the basis of existing institutions. The voluntary instrument should be used as a demonstration of commitment to the global objectives. Consistency of efforts was needed to revitalize financing for sustainable forest management. Costa Rica, though a small nation, was taking concrete decisions in that regard.
Mr. ANDERSEN ( New Zealand) said his country intended to work collectively with other delegations to ensure the achievement of the Forum’s objectives. New Zealand would contribute to any agreement on the multi-year programme of work that would build on the good work carried out by the country-led initiative. There was much to be achieved in the Forum’s two-week session and the time had come to be decisive.
CHRISTINE FUNG (Papua New Guinea), speaking for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, said the organization was made up of as of 22 Pacific Island countries and territories with diverse ecosystems, ranging from the highly forested Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, to low atoll islands where mangrove and tree crops were the dominant forest cover. The forest area and communities of Pacific Island countries were growing more ecologically and socio-economically vulnerable, due to the increasing demands of fast-growing populations, poor policy frameworks, poor governance, unscrupulous and illegal logging deals, lack of financial instruments for sustainable forest management and climate change.
She said climate change had become an issue of very real concern in the Pacific islands, where low-lying islands were especially vulnerable and the capacity of forest ecosystems and current land management systems to withstand extreme and erratic weather patterns were severely tested. Over the years, the secretariat had built up regional collaboration and partnerships on sustainable forest management and member countries recognized that the regional approach was an effective and efficient strategy to: develop and strengthen joint regional positions; address issues transcending national interests; and facilitate information exchange and collaboration between countries and international bodies. Looking forward to the upcoming deliberations, the Secretariat wished to see the adoption of a focused and streamlined multi-year programme of work that would support and strengthen the role of regional organizations, and of a non-legally binding instrument that would encourage a stronger and more formal commitment to sustainable forest management by all parties.
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