General Assembly adopts new agreement to protect world’s forests

17 December 2007 –

Fifteen years after discussions began on a global approach to protect the world’s forests, which are disappearing at an alarming rate, the General Assembly today adopted a new landmark international agreement to safeguard this critical natural resource.

The agreement, entitled the “Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests,” was negotiated in April within the UN Forum on Forests and transmitted to the Assembly following its approval by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Hailing today’s action by the Assembly, the Director of the Forum’s Secretariat, Pekka Patosaari, said it “significantly advances efforts to monitor the state of the world’s forests and secure long-term political commitment to sustainable forest management.”

While not legally binding, the agreement sets a standard in forest management that is expected to have a major impact on efforts to reverse the loss of forest cover, reduce deforestation, prevent forest degradation, promote sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty for people dependent on forests for their survival.

“There is much more to this instrument than just protecting trees,” Assembly President Srgjan Kerim said at a special event following the adoption of the Instrument, emphasizing the growing recognition of the role of forests in stabilizing climate change, and protecting biodiversity and ecosystems. “And let us not forget that today, over 1.6 billion people depend on forests for fuel, food, medicine and income. So protecting forests really means fostering sustainable development,” he said.

Forests needed to be protected because they were disappearing at an alarming rate, he added, noting that over the past 15 years, more than 3 per cent of the planet’s forests had vanished. “The instrument we have just adopted thus expresses our will to respond to this alarming trend,” he said.

The Assembly today also strongly condemned all threats and acts of violence against UN and associated humanitarian personnel. In a resolution adopted soon after a system-wide minute of silence for the 17 UN staff that perished in the terrorist attack on the world body’s offices in Algiers last week, the Assembly expressed its “deep concern” at the dangers faced by such personnel, who operate in increasingly complex situations.

In other actions, the Assembly adopted a resolution declaring 2010 the Year of Rapprochement of Cultures, and recommended that, during the course of that Year, appropriate events be organized on interreligious and intercultural dialogue.

Also adopted today were texts on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010); strengthening UN humanitarian and emergency assistance; assistance to the Palestinian people; and assistance to survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

In addition, the Assembly adopted a number of resolutions recommended by its Special Political and Decolonization Committee – also known as the Fourth Committee.

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