The Ninth Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests

Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour to address you at this ninth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests.

Although New York City has greeted you with some cold and turbulent weather, please be assured of our warm welcome to you.

Allow me to congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, and the members of the Bureau upon your election. I have full confidence that under your leadership UNFF9 will be a successful, productive and memorable session.

Since its establishment in 2000, this intergovernmental body has raised the consciousness of the international community about forests…their precious environmental resources….their vital linkages to economies and livelihoods….and their precarious state in our planet’s ecosystem.

It has propelled action on sustainable forest management….there are now more policies and programmes in place to protect forests than ever before.

Sustainable forest management is on the agenda of leaders at the highest political levels.

It was addressed at September’s High Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals.

The meeting’s outcome document underscored the global objectives on forests.

And forest issues were a key element during discussions at the Cancun Climate Change Conference last month.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In this context, I would like to highlight some key elements in the United Nations’ forest agenda.

First, we aim to promote better understanding of the comprehensive benefits of forests….not only their environmental riches but their economic, social and cultural assets.

Forest discussions held since the 2007 Bali Conference have centred on the multi-dimensional quality of forests, and the need for a 360 degree strategy to protect them and see them thrive.

I applaud the Forum for focusing this ninth session on a people-centred approach to forests – for it is well-aligned with a comprehensive perspective.

Indeed, forests provide livelihoods and sustenance for approximately 1.6 billion people across the world, many of whom are poor.

It is imperative, therefore, that negotiations on forests are linked to the many facets of human life that they affect – from hunger and poverty eradication to governance, green economy, and employment.

Next week we will have forest ministers from around the world at the high-level segment. We are optimistic that their participation will help increase attention and action toward a people-centred approach for forest management.

A second key element in our strategy relates to the International Year of Forests.

Distinguished delegates, this year-long advocacy and promotional effort should be maximized…it is an ideal opportunity to disseminate information about the people-centred approach to forest management.

I urge you to carry out events and activities that draw the attention of the general public, the media, politicians, government officials, academia, environmental organizations and young people.

Your efforts can prompt governments to redouble their commitment to sustainable forest management plans.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A third key element in the UN’s forest agenda relates to the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests – also called the Forest Instrument.

As you know, it is the first international agreement on forests that addresses all aspects and functions of forests.

It is the only globally-agreed instrument that provides clarity on the meaning of “sustainable forest management”.

Your hard work made the agreement a reality and I thank you for it.

While we have this common framework in place, it still needs to be fully operationalized.

I urge all governments, international organizations and actors from civil society and the private sector to implement the provisions of the Forest Instrument.

The forest financing work done by this Forum has strengthened the ability of stakeholders to implement changes.

I congratulate the Forum for spearheading this much-needed financing process.

My personal thanks go to you, Mr. Chairman and your Bureau, for your somewhat unorthodox but innovative approach, and to the Member States for being adaptive and determined to make it happen.

With a strategic work plan on forest financing in place, we have moved closer to the goals laid out in the Forest Instrument.

Lastly, I want to remind you of the importance of this Forum to the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 – also known as “Rio+20.”

The objectives of the Conference are to renew political commitment on sustainable development, assess progress and gaps on its implementation and to address emerging issues.

The Conference will be anchored by two themes: a green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development, and an institutional framework for sustainable development.

We must work together to ensure that the outcome of this Conference will help advance sustainable forest management.

The international community needs your advice and advocacy on how to do this.

As Secretary-General of the Conference, I invite you to share your expertise as we move ahead in the preparatory processes.

Distinguished delegates,

I trust that the next two weeks will generate dynamic and productive discussion on its theme, “forests for people, livelihoods and poverty eradication.”

Your engagement here is crucial for advancing policy decisions that are inclusive and cross-sectoral and that take a multilateral approach.

With your help we can turn global, regional and national commitments into actions that lead to sustainable forest management – and with it, jobs and stable, healthy livelihoods,

Mr. Chairman,

As I conclude my remarks, I assure you of the full support of my Department toward the critical work of the UNFF.

I wish you a very successful session.

Thank you.

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