5 April 2013
Press Release
ENV/DEV/1344

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

Background Release


Economic Development Critical Issue for Forest Sustainability as Countries Meet in


Istanbul to Promote Health of World’s Forests


ISTANBUL, 5 April— Recognizing that healthy forests support a broad range of economic development activities, all 197 Member and observer States of the United Nations Forum on Forests will meet in Istanbul, Turkey, from 8 to 19 April, for the tenth session of the Forum to consider a range of measures to improve sustainable forest management.


The Forum, the only international body that addresses all forest and tree policy issues, is meeting to catalyse actions by all countries to:  reduce deforestation; improve the livelihoods and economies of people who derive their livelihoods and sustenance from forests; increase the forests under protection; and increase assistance to developing countries to improve forest management.


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will open the Forum, which will be attended by two Prime Ministers, one Vice-President and over 50 ministers and high-level officials.  The Istanbul meeting will mark the first time the Forum will meet outside a United Nations Headquarters city — meetings are usually held in New York.


The Forum, which will result in an outcome document, will also showcase sustainable forest management best practices and the individuals who have actually put these practices into innovative use.  The Forum will feature the winners of the 2012-2013 Forest Heroes Award, the winners of Forests for People:  the first United Nations International Short Film Contest, and the first-ever United Nations Forum on Forest Photo Contest.


“Forests are vital for our well-being,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message for the recently marked first International Day of Forests.  But, he noted that forests are often at the frontlines of competing demands.  “Urbanization and the consumption needs of growing populations are linked to deforestation for large-scale agriculture and the extraction of valuable timber, oil and minerals.  Often, the roads that provide infrastructure for these enterprises ease access for other forest users who can further exacerbate the rate of forest and biodiversity loss.”


United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo said the Istanbul meeting is a defining moment for improving the future of the world’s forests.  “Sustainable forest management cannot happen without prerequisite institutional and policy frameworks.  One important issue relates to adequate and sustained financing, which is also on the agenda for this session.  In light of the ongoing major processes to define a post-2015 United Nations development agenda with sustainable development at its core, I believe this session will make a critical contribution.  The decisions of the Forum will be of historic significance.”


Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, and about 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood.  Three fourths of fresh water comes from forested catchment areas, and forests stabilize slopes, prevent landslides and protect coastal communities against tsunamis and storms.  More than 3 billion people depend on forests for wood for cooking and heating.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that forestry products contribute nearly $468 billion annually to the global economy, while studies being presented at the Forum show that the actual economic, social and environmental values may have been grossly underestimated.


There have been some positive trends as the global rate of deforestation has decreased by almost 20 per cent in the past decade.  But, even as more trees are planted, the true value of forests — including their contribution to water, biodiversity, and mitigating climate change — are not often taken into consideration.


“The biggest challenge is that while forests are managed and impacted by many, many sectors and by many institutions, they do not work together,” says Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat.  She says that Governments often house forests management in the agriculture ministry, where forests often become a small area of attention.  “Environment ministries are usually separate from forest ministries,” she said, adding that these different offices tend to focus on different goals or objectives.


Forests have been a priority on the international policy and political agendas for the past 20 years.  At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development — the Earth Summit — the forest issue was among the most controversial.  Intense negotiations among Governments resulted in the Non-legally Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of all Types of Forests, also known as the “Forest Principles”, as well as Chapter 11 of Agenda 21:  Combating Deforestation.


Negotiations at the United Nations Forum on Forests, established by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 2000, resulted in agreement on the Non-legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests in 2007.  The Instrument, which was also formally adopted by the General Assembly in late 2007, calls for strengthening political commitment and action to the sustainable management of all types of forests, to enhance the contribution of forests to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, in particular with respect to poverty eradication and environmental sustainability, and to provide a framework for national action and international cooperation.


For information on the United Nations Forum on Forests, please visit www.un.org/esa/forests.


Live and on-demand webcast coverage of the Forum will be available on United Nations Web TV at http://webtv.un.org.


For information on media accreditation to the tenth Forum on Forests, please visit www.un.org/en/media/accreditation/UNFF10.shtml.


For more information, please contact Dan Shepard, Department of Public Information, at e-mail:  shepard@un.org; tel.:  +1 646 675 3286.


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For information media • not an official record