UN REPORT SAYS DEFORESTATION CONTINUING AT ALARMING RATE,
AS FORUM ON FORESTS MEETS AT HEADQUARTERS 16 - 27 MAY
More than 300 government officials, including 40 ministers responsible for forests will meet at United Nations Headquarters for the fifth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests from 16-27 May, in order to review the effectiveness of the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF) and to consider future action on forest issues.
A United Nations Secretary-General’s report prepared for the Forum reveals that, despite substantial progress in the formulation and implementation of national forest policies, deforestation and forest degradation continue at an alarming rate. The deforestation rate in the 1990s was estimated at 14.6 million hectares per year; since 5.2 million hectares were gained through afforestation (i.e. establishing a forest on previously unforested land) and natural expansion of forests, the rate of net deforestation was 9.4 million hectares per year. Most of the losses occur in the tropics, while in the non-tropical regions forests are expanding either naturally (for example on large areas of abandoned agricultural land) or as a result of afforestation programmes, the report adds. (Document E/CN.18/2005/7)
The UN Forum on Forests, which was created by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), is a high-level United Nations body for policy coordination and development that addresses critical issues related to forests. The Forum is the key component of the International Arrangement on Forests, with the aim of promoting management, conservation, and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end.
-- The fifth session will notably address the future actions of the International Arrangement on Forests, including the institutional framework and how to strengthen it in support of activities on the ground.
-- One of the main topics will be the links between forests and the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, and the Forum is expected to discuss the possibility for developing a legal instrument on forests. (Provisional Agenda, document E/CN.18/2005/1)
-- Nobel Laureate and lifelong forest activist Wangari Maathai will address the Forum on the future of the international arrangement on forests at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 17 May.
-- A panel discussion entitled “Asia-Pacific Day”, devoted to regional realities, will be held on 18 May.
-- A two-day high-level ministerial segment and policy dialogue with heads of international organizations will be held 25 - 26 May as part of the session. The portfolios of participating ministers include forestry, agriculture, the environment, natural resources, rural development and tourism. Two round table panels on “restoring the world’s forests” and on “forest law and governance for sustainability” will also take place during the high-level segment (document E/CN.18/2005/4).
In a report for the Forum (document E/CN.18/2005/7), the Secretary-General stresses the critical role of forests in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, mentioning that close to 1.6 billion people depend to varying degrees on forests for their livelihoods. Forests provide subsistence and income to about 350 million people who live within or near forests, and forest industries provide employment to nearly 100 million people. “The alarming rate of deforestation continues to warrant international attention and there is a need to renew the pledge to combat deforestation and restore forest functions (such as production, protection and conservation) at the landscape level, by rehabilitating degraded lands with, inter alia, forest plantations, and to improve the livelihoods of poor people living in and around forests worldwide as a priority”, the report says.
Major Group Priorities
The Forum is not only a forum for governments to negotiate. A wide array of stakeholders, called major groups, will have an opportunity to present their priorities through the course of the session. About 250 people representing some 34 major groups’ organizations have registered to attend. Major group priorities outlined in papers presented to the Forum include:
-- Women’s groups propose “ways in which the Forum and its partners can significantly promote women’s engagement and participation in sustainable forest management”. (Document E/CN.18/2005/3/Add.3)
-- Indigenous peoples stress that they are “not merely stakeholders in a discussion about future forms of forest agreements and management principles, but rather are rights holders”. (Document E/CN.18/2005/3/Add.6)
-- The business and industry groups highlight “identification and establishment of basic principles and minimum requirements for sustainable forest management, stronger coordination of forest policies, greater recognition of sustainable forest management and forest products trade, and broader recognition of economic aspects of forests”. (Document E/CN.18/2005/3/Add.1)
-- The workers and trade unions groups declare that “without legally binding agreements, the impact of the socio-economic forces promoting deforestation and increases in poverty among forest-dependent peoples will persist unabated”. (Document E/CN.18/2005/3/Add.2)
-- The non-governmental organization groups call for action to halt the destruction of forests by promoting “genuine community-based forest management that empowers forest peoples”. (Document E/CN.18/2005/3/Add.4)
Media representatives without UN credentials who wish to attend UNFF 5 meetings should contact: Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, UN Department of Public Information, fax: +1 212 963 4642; tel.: +1-212-963-2318.
For media queries regarding the Forum on Forests, please contact: François Coutu, UN Department of Public Information, tel.: +1 212 963 9495; e-mail: email@example.com; or Njeri Kariuki, UN Forum on Forest Secretariat, tel.: +1 917 367 6048, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: http://www.un.org/esa/forests/index.html
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