|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
As Forest Forum Session Nears Conclusion in Istanbul, Top UN Official Says ‘New
Ground’ Broken on Range of Measures to Improve Sustainable Forest Management
ISTANBUL, 19 April — With crucial negotiations on global forestry issues headed into the final stretch, the chief of the United Nations Forum on Forests told reporters today that the intergovernmental body would wrap up its work in Istanbul having “broken new ground” on a range of measures to improve sustainable forest management.
“For the moment, we don't know about final outcomes, but what I can tell you is that some very rich issues have been discussed here,” Jan McAlpine said at a press conference ahead of the closure of the “historic” tenth anniversary session of the Forum, which is the only international body that addresses all forest and tree policy issues. The two-week meeting opened in the vibrant Turkish city on 8 April and delegations were expected to emerge from marathon negotiations later this evening with two consensus draft resolutions.
Ms. McAlpine, Director of the Forum Secretariat, said that during the session, 197 Government delegations had held ground-breaking discussion on ways to implement sustainable forest management, which entailed stewardship of forests and trees outside forests in ways that maintained their rich biodiversity while also contributing to livelihoods, boosting national economies, and addressing other social and environmental issues. Indeed, issues surrounding “forests and economic development” — the theme of the session — had never before been raised in multilateral negotiations, she said.
Noting in that regard that forest products contributed nearly $500 billion to the global economy each year, she said that a major focus of the discussions had been that the value of that contribution was being “vastly underestimated”. She urged reporters to highlight the range of vital contributions of forests and trees to societies, as well as the fact that they had both economic and environmental value. She praised the Government and people of Turkey for spotlighting that complex issue, as well as for agreeing to host the Forum’s first-ever session away from United Nations Headquarters in New York.
As for the session itself, she said that more than 3,000 participants had gathered in Istanbul, reflecting a high level of interest on a wide range of issues. The meeting had also been attended by two Prime Ministers, one Vice-President and more than 50 ministers of finance, agriculture and forestry. Again praising the role played in the area by the Turkish Government, she said that the Forum’s session and the discussions that took place had shown that “we can already celebrate that Istanbul is at the heart of the global agreement that people need forests, and forests need people to manage [them] sustainably”.
Responding to a question on whether the Forum’s outcome resolutions would call for the establishment of a global fund for forest financing, Ms. McAlpine reiterated that participants were still deliberating. They had held in-depth discussions throughout the past two weeks on financing forest management, including the creation of a global fund. “The Forum has spent more time than ever before discussing the multiple sources of financing, as well as the gaps,” she said, but emphasized that how the Forum would proceed “is still in the hands of Member States”.
To a reporter who voiced concern about the health of Turkey’s woodland areas — especially in and around Istanbul — and who asked whether the Forum had made any recommendations to the Government, she recalled that earlier in the session, senior Turkish officials had made presentations about the situation in the country. The Forum was not mandated to investigate specific situations or provide technical assessments. Nevertheless, she acknowledged the challenges all urban areas faced in sustainably managing their trees and forests. “We need to keep cities breathing,” she said, and noted the commitment of the Turkish Government to addressing the landscape of forest and tree issues, including in rural and urban settings.
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