Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the Special Event of the General Assembly's Adoption of the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on all Types of Forests
New York, 17 December 2007

On behalf of the Secretary-General, I am honoured to join you for this special occasion – the adoption of the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests.

The issue of forests has been high on the international policy and political agenda since the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. At Rio, intense intergovernmental negotiations 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 – known as the “Forest Principles” – as well as Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 on Combating Deforestation. The concept of Sustainable Forest Management was thus born.

Today’s special event thus culminates negotiations, spanning over a decade and half, on a global approach to sustainable forest management. It is truly a milestone, as this is the first time Member States have agreed to an international instrument on international forest policy and cooperation.

The Instrument reflects the strong international commitment to advance sustainable forest management, to curb deforestation, and to enhance the contribution of forests to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

Forests cover 30 per cent of the world’s land area, and over 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on the resources that forests provide for their livelihoods. Sustainably managed forests therefore play a vital role in global social development, environmental stability and economic growth.

Achieving the global development agenda requires a new, more holistic approach to address the inter-linkages between people and the world’s natural resource base. Sustainable forest management is deeply intertwined with other sectors, and requires coordinated inter-sectoral approaches. The instrument recognizes the varying environmental, economic and political realities in all countries. And it conceptualizes sustainable forest management as a dynamic and evolving process, which aims to maintain and enhance the economic, social and environmental values of all types of forests.

The instrument signals a new era for international forest policy, characterized by reinvigorated dialogue at all levels – global, regional, national and local – to address the critical emerging issues affecting forests. The ultimate promise of this instrument lies in its implementation and translation into concrete action around the world.

Implementation lies primarily in the hands of Member States, who integrate the internationally agreed development goals and policy recommendations into their national development strategies. Yet, success will require a combination of national efforts and international cooperation. At the national level, forest issues must be integrated with other cross-sectoral issues, while at the international level, cooperation and support for a new, people-centred forest policy agenda must be enhanced.

The entire UN system has a contribution to make – the global and regional intergovernmental bodies, the United Nations Secretariat, funds, programmes and specialized agencies, and the research and training institutes. At the global and regional levels, we remain committed to providing normative and policy support to United Nations Forum on Forests process. At the national level, the UN system stands ready to provide our assistance in capacity building for implementation.

To enable forests to contribute to the overall development of society, we need further pro-poor, pro-nature and pro-growth actions that link trees and forests to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals. This can only be achieved by continuing in our long-term efforts to foster integrated approaches, collaboration and partnership among all stakeholders at all levels.

Working together, in the true spirit of partnership, we can reverse the loss of forest cover worldwide, improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent people, and safeguard our world’s forests for current and future generations.

Thank you.