Closing Ceremony of the International Year of Forests

Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished Colleagues,

Welcome to the Closing Ceremony of the International Year of Forests.

As you know, the theme of the International Year was Forests for People. It highlighted the deep, interdependent relationship between humanity and forests.

Through communication and outreach activities, the Year put a spotlight on both the challenges of sustainable forestry, as well as possible solutions.

As the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, I want to highlight how forests can help build the future we want.

Forests are an important part of a larger picture.  We can no longer look at natural resources with an isolated silo-based approach.

We need something more holistic that encompasses all three pillars of sustainable development.

An estimated 80% of the world’s forests are publicly owned. The fate of forests truly rests in the hands of people.

More than 1.6 billion people, a quarter of the world’s population, depend on forests for their livelihoods. Forests directly contribute to economic development by providing jobs, incomes, and vital goods for poor families.

Distinguished Colleagues,

The International Year of Forests has helped create a platform for dialogue and action. Through various actors – starting with local communities and moving to national, regional and international levels – we heard about effective ways to sustainably manage forests. We hope that the Year inspired governments to redouble their efforts as well.

And we hope that what was learned during the Year carries through to our next milestone: Rio+20.

As we forge ahead with preparations, I know that the momentum and energy from the International Year will translate into tremendous progress in 2012 and beyond.

We hope Rio+20 will galvanize new action and initiatives on forests, building on REDD plus and forests’ role in climate change.

There is also growing expectation that Rio+20 will define sustainable development goals, including on forests.

We hope Rio+20 will integrate forests into actions on the seven-plus priority areas.  Let forests also be part of the actions on food security and sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, energy and water and disaster prevention, among others.

We are counting on you, as experts and leaders who care about forests, to help us. You can extend the progress of the International Year of Forests by supporting those additional actions.

It is our collective efforts that will bring results: for forests and for people.

Thank you.