Concluding Forest Forum, Countries Endorsed Measures that Ensure Priority to Forest Issues in post-2015 Agenda

22 April 2013
ENV/DEV/1355

Concluding Forest Forum, Countries Endorsed Measures that Ensure Priority to Forest Issues in post-2015 Agenda

22 April 2013
Economic and Social Council
ENV/DEV/1355
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Concluding Forest Forum, Countries Endorsed Measures that Ensure

 

Priority to Forest Issues in post-2015 Agenda

 

ISTANBUL, 20 April — The 197 country members of the United Nations Forum on Forests concluded their two-week session in Istanbul, Turkey, with agreement on a series of measures aimed at improving sustainable management of forests and ensuring that forest issues will continue to have priority in the process to define the United Nations development agenda after 2015.

The Forum calls on national Governments to take a range of actions to improve sustainable forest management, from substantive data collection, measuring the full value of forest functions, products and services, and addressing the causes of deforestation and forests degradation, to improving participation of local communities, including indigenous peoples, in the management of forests.  Countries also agreed, at the global and national levels, to mobilize additional resources to support sustainable forest management activities.

The outcome calls on countries to further integrate forests into their national development strategies and to strengthen legal frameworks and governance, including land tenure rights, in order to realize the full economic potential of the forests.

While recognizing that there is no single solution to meet all forest financing needs, the Forum agreed that multiple sources of financing, at the national, regional and international levels was needed from multiple sources, public and private, including consideration of a voluntary global forest fund.  There was also agreement that the option of establishing a new Global Environment Facility (GEF) focal area on forests should be considered and invited GEF to strengthen its support for forests in its next replenishment period, which starts in 2014.

The Istanbul session of the Forum follows a strong decision by countries at Rio+20, held last June in Rio de Janeiro, to support action on forests, recognizing that forests play a major role in promoting sustainable development, which supports economic and social development while protecting the environment.

Countries agreed that Member States should “fully integrate forests into the discussions on the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015, taking into account the vital role and significant contributions of the conservation and sustainable management of all types of forests and trees outside forests for achieving sustainable development and poverty eradication.”

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo, said: “Countries came to Istanbul with the aim of halting deforestation and forest degradation and enhance sustainable forest management to increase economic, social and environmental benefits, to all of society.  The results of the Forum show that countries are serious about implementing the agreements reached at Rio+20.”  He added: “The outcome of the UN Forum on Forests is a major step forward in global efforts to implement sustainable development.”

“There is now greater recognition than ever before that forests are essential to economic development and sustainable development,” said Jan McAlpine, Director of the Secretariat for the Forum.  “In this historic meeting, countries broke new ground and agreed to take actions that demonstrate the need to sustainably manage our forests so that they can continue to be a source of livelihoods, broader economic development, including clean air, clean water and biodiversity — all leading to poverty eradication.”

In the outcome document, countries acknowledge that the failure to better conserve and sustainably manage all types of forests may put at risk the achievement of other internationally agreed development goals, such as those related to food security, water, biodiversity, climate change, poverty alleviation, energy and human well-being.

While there has been an overall increase in financing for sustainable forest management, particularly due to programmes connected with the climate change objective of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, there was agreement that most countries were still facing obstacles in obtaining financing and that steps were needed to attract investment from all sources of funding, including from the private sector.

In a report to the Forum by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, there was a finding that many countries, including “low forest cover” countries, small island developing States and the least developed countries show a serious 20-year plus decline in financing for forests.

More than 130 countries attended the Forum, including at least 50 who were represented at the ministerial level.  All told, there were over 3,000 delegates, representatives of non-governmental organizations and civil society groups, press, and local staff participating in the Forum.

The Forum also featured the winners of the “Forests for People Awards”, which honoured “Forest Heroes” — five individuals who made outstanding contributions to forests and the communities that rely on them — as well as the winners of the International Short Forest Film Festival and the International Forest Photography contest.

“The Awards ceremony highlighted the idea that the discussion about forests is a discussion about people,” McAlpine said.  “People need forests and forests need people to act sustainably and responsibly.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened the Forum — the first time the Forum has been held outside a United Nations headquarters — said rapid industrial growth was causing ecosystems to deteriorate and forests to be at risk of vanishing.  Turkey has taken considerable strides in increasing the size of its forests as a result of reforestation efforts, and is now looking to extend its forest cover from 27 per cent to 30 per cent by 2023.

The Forum is the only international body that addresses all forest and tree policy issues.  Countries will decide at its next session, in 2015, how the functions of the Forum will continue internationally.  At that time, countries will decide whether the present forest instrument is sufficient to guide cooperation and action on forests or whether to develop an international treaty.

Negotiations at the United Nations Forum on Forests, established by the Economic and Social Council in 2000, resulted in agreement on the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All types of Forests in 2007.  The Instrument, which was also formally adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in late 2007, calls for strengthening political commitment and action to the sustainable management of all types of forests, to enhance the contribution of forests to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, in particular with respect to poverty eradication and environmental sustainability, and to provide a framework for national action and international cooperation.

Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass and about 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood.  Three fourths of freshwater comes from forested catchment areas and forests contain 80 per cent of all land-based biodiversity, stabilize slopes, prevent landslides and protect coastal communities against tsunamis and storms.  More than 3 billion people depend on forests for wood for cooking and heating.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that forestry products contribute nearly $468 billion annually to the global economy, while studies being presented at United Nations Forum on Forests show that we may have grossly underestimated the actual economic, social and environmental values.

Forests have been a priority on the international policy and political agendas for the past 20 years.  At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development — the Earth Summit — the forest issue was among the most controversial.  Intense negotiations among Governments 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, also known as the “Forest Principles”, as well as Chapter 11 of Agenda 21: Combating Deforestation.

For information on the UN Forum on Forests, please see www.un.org/esa/forests.  Archived webcast coverage of the Forum is available on UN WebTV at webtv.un.org.

For more information, please contact Dan Shepard, UN Department of Public Information, e-mail: shepard@un.org, tel: +1 646 675 3286.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.