1 February 2011
Economic and Social Council
ENV/DEV/1186
OBV/959

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

United Nations to Launch International Year of Forests, 2011, As Forum

 

Holds High-Level Ministerial Segment at Headquarters, 2 February

 


The International Year of Forests — a year-long celebration of the vital role that forests play in people’s lives — will be launched on Wednesday, 2 February, at a ceremony attended by world leaders, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai and United Nations forest experts.


Global observance of the Year comes amid growing recognition of the role that forests managed in a sustainable manner play in everything from mitigating climate change to providing wood, medicines and livelihoods for people around the world.


Part of the high-level ministerial segment of the United Nations Forum on Forests, the launch will see General Assembly President Joseph Deiss presiding and international filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand premiering his short film Forest.  The Forum’s ninth session began at Headquarters on 24 January and concludes on 4 February.


“By declaring 2011 as the International Year of Forests,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “the United Nations General Assembly has created an important platform to educate the global community about the great value of forests — and the extreme social, economic and environmental costs of losing them.”


Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted: “Political interest in forests is on the rise, but we need to use this International Year as a way to translate this interest into action.”


Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, pointed out that “every one of us, all 7 billion people on earth, has our physical, economic and spiritual health tied to the health of our forest ecosystems”, adding: “Throughout 2011, we will celebrate this intricate, interdependent relationship between forests and people.”


The launch programme will also feature clips from winning films screened at the International Forest Film Festival, which was organized by the Forum on Forests Secretariat in collaboration with the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.  Winning entries were selected from more than 160 films that were submitted from over 30 countries.  They were considered in six categories: This is My Forest; Living Forests; Issues and Solutions; Forest Hero, 360°; All Things Forest; and Shorts.  The detailed programme can be found at http://www.un.org/esa/forests/pdf/session_documents/unff9/Forests_2011_ceremony2.pdf.


The General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness of the sustainable management, conservation and development of all types of forests.  By showcasing success stories on humanity’s central role in tackling the challenges facing many forests, the Year provides a platform to bring people’s voices together and galvanize action for forests around the world.


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


At least 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their daily livelihoods and subsistence needs.  Forests are home to more than 60 million people, mainly members of indigenous and local communities.


Media representatives wishing to attend the Forum’s meetings but lacking United Nations credentials should contact the Media Accreditation and 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, Department of Public Information, tel: +1 212 963 9495 or +1 212 963 6816, fax: +1 212 963 1186, or e-mail: mediainfo@un.org; or Mita Sen, Forum on Forests Secretariat, tel: +1 917 367 5069, fax: +1 917 367 3186, or e-mail: sen@un.org.  Also, please visit www.un.org/en/forests and http://www.un.org/esa/forests.


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For information media • not an official record