The decline of global forest cover poses critical economic implications for the formal and informal sectors, especially on people who depend on forests for employment, income and subsistence. According to the World Bank, about 1.6 billion people depend heavily on forests resources for their livelihoods, including 60 million indigenous people who are fully dependent upon the forests and an additional 350 million who depend on them primarily for income and subsistence. Agroforestry, in many cases, is also a central activity for many of these forest-dependent people.
Nearly 50 million people are employed in the forest sector. However, according to some estimates, employment could be as high as 150 million people, most of which gets carried out by the informal sector through the collection of fuelwood and non-timber forest products, as well as small-scale production of timber and timber products. About 1.8 billion cubic meters of wood are harvested for this basic purpose each year (about half of all wood harvested, and most of this gathering is done by women).
Moreover, most of the total employment in the forest sector is found in developing countries and in many activities it is dominated by women. In these countries, due to loss of employment and income, a considerable number of people will be forced to forage in forests for food, protein, energy and land, further exacerbating pressure on forests, other natural resources and the environment. The magnitude of the impact directed at forests and people is of major concern and warrants immediate action.
Within the UN system, the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) was established as a high-level intergovernmental body with the main objective to promote sustainable forest management (SFM) worldwide. With the adoption of the Non-legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests (forest instrument) by the Forum at its seventh session and the General Assembly in 2007, the Forum’s Member States have agreed, for the first time, to an international instrument for SFM.
The instrument is expected to have a major impact on international cooperation and national action to reduce deforestation, prevent forest degradation, promote sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty for all forest-dependent peoples. While negotiations on climate change and its relation to forests and subsequent financing opportunities for certain activities in forests are attractive topics, sustainable and predictable financing is still a priority issue for a large number of countries for the implementation of the forest instrument, promotion of comprehensive SFM and the achievement of the four global objectives on forests.
The Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests as a Division of DESA, serves as focal point on all forest policy issues. In addition to supporting the implementation of the nine principal functions of the Forum, the Secretariat also contributes to the implementation of the outcomes of the Forum’s deliberations. Working off the three pillars of SFM, the Secretariat also promotes dialogue and cooperation on forest, including reporting on progress towards SFM and on national policies and measures as well as international cooperation and means of implementation as set forth in the forest instrument.
At the eighth session of the UNFF on 20 April 2009, the Forum held a Panel discussion on “The financial crisis and SFM: threat and opportunity”. Composed of highly recognized speakers, the panel reiterated the urgent need to highlight the potential impact of the financial crisis on poor people in developing countries, as pressure on forests will increase.
The key role of the Forum in raising awareness of the short and long-term impacts on forests and the need for secured financing for SFM were also greatly recognized. In addition, the Forum underscored the need for a broad understanding of the potentials of SFM at the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change given the fundamental role of the world’s forests in climate change mitigation and adaptation.