25 May 2010
Press Release
ENV/DEV/1143

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

United Nations Entities Join Forces to Address Mounting Pressures on Forests, Drylands


Amid Efforts to Ensure More Effective Implementation of Sustainable Land Management


PUNTA DEL ESTE, Uruguay,25 May —With pressures mounting on the world’s forests and drylands, the Secretariats of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) have agreed to team up in addressing the important institutional gap between drylands and forests — an essential step towards more effective implementation of sustainable forest and land management.


The two secretariats will sign a Memorandum of Understanding today that provides new avenues of cooperation on a wide range of common issues between sustainable forest and land management, particularly in arid land forests, tropical dry forests and low forest cover countries.  The agreement stresses the need to work together to fight land degradation, including in forests.  It also underscores the link with climate change and REDD+, which emphasizes the importance of recognizing the true value of forests in addressing climate change, and to increase financing in those areas.  It will contribute strongly to synergies between the Secretariats, including a common programme on forest landscape restoration.


Natural barriers against land degradation and desertification, forests provide a crucial source of clean water and prevent soil erosion, thereby assuring the daily subsistence needs and essential livelihood services of 1.2 billion people.  “The sustainable management of forest ecosystems can only be assured if there are also efforts in land rehabilitation and land reclamation,” according to Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the Convention to Combat Desertification.  “Competing claims on land resources are putting increasing pressure on all types of forests.  In order to preserve them, we must think and operate outside the box.  Joining forces with the UNFF secretariat enhances our field synergies in dry forests at a time when their importance is being recognized in sustaining livelihoods and eradicating poverty.”


Jan McAlpine, Director of the Forum on Forests Secretariat, said:  “This forward-leaning agreement recognizes the challenge of ‘silos’ created by the global environmental architecture.  It will enable us to tackle both forest and land degradation, which not only have adverse environmental consequences, but directly affect the quality of people’s lives, their livelihoods and their food security.”


The agreement is based on the specific mandates of the two organizations’ governing bodies.  The UNFF adopted resolution 8/1 in May 2009 which requested the Forum on Forests Secretariat to “explore with the secretariats of the Rio Conventions a format and opportunities for collaboration and cooperation and to develop targeted joint activities related to sustainable forest management, the four global objectives on forests and the non-legally-binding instrument on all types of forests”.  Likewise, Decision 8/COP9, adopted in October 2009, requests the Executive Secretary of the Convention to Combat Desertification to develop “further cooperation with relevant international bodies on matters pertaining to desertification/land degradation and drought, with respect to the implementation of the Strategy”.


Mr. Gnacadja noted that, to strengthen that cooperation, “we need to scale up financing strategies on carbon sequestration in drylands, along with delivery of REDD+ financing, which can make a positive difference for people living in degraded dry forests”.


Ms. McAlpine added:  “We are confident that donors will recognize the value of this agreement.  Losing forests not only means losing a battle against land degradation.  It also means that part of our cultural and spiritual heritage is disappearing.  It is essential that we work together to ensure that forests and land are managed sustainably and effectively, for our generation and the next.”


United Nations Forum on Forests


The Forum was established in 2000 with the main objective of promoting the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, and strengthening long-term political commitment to that end.  It is the only functional commission of the Economic and Social Council that enjoys the membership of all the world body’s 192 Members States.  In 2007, the Forum adopted the landmark Non-Legally-Binding Agreement on All Types of Forests, which provides a platform for international cooperation and national action to reduce deforestation, prevent forest degradation, promote sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty for all forest-dependent peoples.  Substantive support for the Forum’s deliberations is provided by its Secretariat, which also serves as the focal point on all forest policy issues.  The Forum on Forests Secretariat is located at Headquarters in New York.


United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification


Having entered into force in 1994, the Convention is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environmental and development issues to the land agenda.  It focuses on drylands, which cover 41 per cent of the Earth and are inhabited by more than 2 billion people.  Drylands account for 44 per cent of the world’s cultivated ecosystems and have provided 30 per cent of all its cultivated plants.  However, eight of the world’s 25 biodiversity “hotspots” are located within drylands and up to one fifth of the drylands have been steadily degraded since the 1980s.  The Convention’s 193 States parties are dedicated to improving the living conditions of the world’s poorest 1.2 billion people living on drylands, to maintaining and restoring the land’s productivity, and to mitigating the effects of drought.


For additional information, please contact Hossein Moeini-Meybodi, tel.:  +1 212 963 5949 or e-mail:  moeini-meybodi@un.org; Benjamin Singer, tel.:  +1 917 367 5807 or e-mail:  singerb@un.org; Mita Sen, tel.:  +1 917 367 5069 or e-mail:  sen@un.org; Yukie Hori, tel.:  +49 228 815 2829 or e-mail:  yhori@unccd.int; or Wagaki Mwangi tel.:  +49 228 815 2820 or e-mail:  wmwangi@unccd.int.


Visit www.unccd.int for general information on the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and www.un.org/esa/forests/ for general information on the United Nations Forum on Forests.


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For information media • not an official record