21 January 2011
Economic and Social Council

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

Background Release

United Nations Forest Forum to Consider Ways to Improve Livelihoods,


Reduce Poverty in Forest Areas, 24 January-4 February

Strategies that can help the world’s forests to promote social development, livelihoods and poverty eradication will be the focus of the United Nations Forum on Forests, which will meet from 24 January to 4 February.

The Forum, which consists of all 192 members of the United Nations, aims to emphasize the role and needs of people who depend on forests at a time when unsustainable practices and economic crises continue to threaten healthy forests.

Countries will also mark the launch of the International Year of Forests during the Forum, on 2 February, to broaden public understanding of the role that healthy forests play virtually everywhere.

Forests cover about 31 per cent of the world’s land area, amounting to just under 4 billion hectares, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  At the same time, FAO estimates that 13 million hectares of the world's forests are lost, mainly due to conversion of forest land to other uses.

Also during the Forum, FAO will launch its “State of the World’s Forests”, a report published every two years, which highlights the most recent data about forests worldwide.

For the next two weeks, policies and programmes related to forest-dependent communities, land tenure, and other social and cultural aspects of forests will be the subject of discussion at the United Nations Forum on Forests.  The Forum is the only global body for comprehensive deliberations on international forest policy, and has membership of all member countries of the United Nations.

At least 1.6 billion people directly depend on forests for their livelihoods and the majority of them are poor and live in and around forests.  Approximately 60 million people, mainly members of indigenous and local communities, reside in forests.  The annual value of wood removed from forests is estimated to be more than $100 billion, according to FAO data, and globally, more than 60 million people are employed by forest-based industries (wood, pulp and paper and other processing plants).

“Forests are the intersection of all aspects of human life,” says Jan McAlpine, Director of the Forum’s Secretariat, “and the biodiversity the forest protects includes people”. 

“ Forest history, at its core, is about the changing relationships between people and forests,” McAlpine added.  “At this session of the Forum, we must listen to these lessons from our natural history, and incorporate the voices of the people into forest policies to build a sustainable future for both forests and people.”

2011 has been declared the International Year of Forests by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. By showcasing success stories on the central role of people in tackling the challenges facing many of the world’s forests, the Year provides a platform to bring people’s voices together and galvanise action for forests around the world.  The official launch of the International Year will take place on the morning of 2 February at the Forum’s high-level ministerial segment.

More information about the ninth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests, including documents, organization of work and side events, can be found on the Forum website at www.un.org/esa/forests/session.html.

Media representatives without United Nations credentials who wish to attend the Forum’s meetings should contact the Media Accreditation & Liaison Unit, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel.: +1 212 963 2318, or fax:  +1 212 963 4642.

For more information or interviews, please contact Dan Shepard, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel.: +1 212 963 9495 or +1 212 963 6816, fax:  +1 212 963 1186, e-mail:  mediainfo@un.org; or Mita Sen, United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, tel.: +1 917 367 5069, fax:  +1 917 367 3186, or e-mail:  sen@un.org

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For information media • not an official record