The future of forests

The winners of the 2011 Future Policy Award, which celebrates national forest policies, will be announced on 21 September at UN Headquarters in New York

 The importance of sustainable development cannot be overstated; it helps people to combat poverty, maintaining their livelihoods and cultures, and it is vital to slowing climate change. The UN’s commitment to environmental sustainability and people-centered forests has recently been expressed through the International Year of Forests (IYF).

As part of this initiative, the World Future Council, UN DESA’s UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) Secretariat, along with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and other partners, will award this year’s prestigious Future Policy Award to three exceptional national policies which strongly support the conservation, management and sustainable development of forests.

“Recognizing innovative forest policies is a vital component of raising awareness of the role forests play in delivering essential benefits and services for people everywhere,” says Jan McAlpine, Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat. “This year’s Future Policy Award is particularly timely given its links to the first ever International Year of Forests 2011 and its message ‘Forests for People’.”

The initial 20 nominees for the Award all demonstrated innovative management strategies for forests. From those submissions, six from Bhutan, Gambia, Nepal, Rwanda, Switzerland and the USA are shortlisted. The three winning policies will be awarded at a ceremony at the Central Park Zoo, New York on 21 September 2011.

Explaining why these particular policies were selected, Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity, remarked “These six shortlisted candidates all demonstrate leadership towards the achievement of the 2020 Biodiversity targets: halving deforestation, restoring forests worldwide and ensuring that all forests are managed sustainably.”

A notable feature of many of the nominations is that they allow local communities to take control of their own resources. The Nepalese community forestry programme encourages local management, and a similar initiative in Gambia has both protected forests against illegal logging and spurred economic growth.

In Rwanda, ambitious reforestation projects have had great success, particularly in protecting indigenous species. Government policies in Bhutan and Switzerland have also significantly enhanced the prospects for sustainability; and the US has introduced new legislation to curb illegal logging abroad and timber importation in the US.

The International Year of Forests has also involved a number of other initiatives, including the establishment of a new international newsletter Regional Voices, issued by the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat; and the collaboration with the Universal Postal Union on their yearly letter writing award.

The International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People has been run since 1971. This year, participants were asked to imagine themselves as a tree, writing a letter to someone explaining why it is important to protect forests. The winning letters came from 15-year-old Charlée Gittens from Barbados and 13-year-old Wang Sa from China, whose entries stood out from over 2 million letters submitted worldwide.

For more information:

The International Year of Forests:

Future Policy Award:

World Future Council:

Universal Postal Union competition:

Regional Voices:

To subscribe to Regional Voices:

Seminar on energy for sustainable development

Newly-established UN Office for Sustainable Development arranged a two-day seminar on 25-26 August in Incheon, Republic of Korea

The UN Office for Sustainable Development (UN-OSD), hosted by the Republic of Korea in Incheon and managed by UN DESA, inaugurated its substantive work by convening a two-day seminar at Yonsei University International Campus. Participants included government experts and international thought-leaders and knowledge providers on energy and sustainable issues drawn from the UN-system, academia and other institutions. 

The objectives were to:

  • Explore the “knowledge map” to be developed and promoted by the UN-OSD through an on-line knowledge management portal, drawing on existing sustainable development knowledge resources and through key partnerships with other UN offices, academic, research, and non-governmental knowledge institutions;
  • Through the thematic lens of energy, analyze and discuss recent trends, challenges and policy implications of a transition to sustainable development. 

In light of the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to be held in Brazil, 4-6 June 2012, the seminar presented an important opportunity for key stakeholders and thought leaders to discuss priorities and themes for the Office’s operation as a global resource centre for knowledge, research, training and communication on sustainable development. In particular, the seminar discussed the creation of a web-based knowledge portal which is expected to be a central pillar of services provided by the Office. 

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Call for global strategy on youth employment

More than 500 young people from around the world came together to attend the High-level Meeting on Youth which opened on 25 July at UN Headquarters in New York 

Member States called for the creation of a global strategy on youth employment to anticipate and offset “the negative social and economic consequences of globalization and to maximize its benefits for young people”. The outcome of the meeting noted some 17 areas of action on youth issues, including specific measures to advance inclusive job creation, skill development and vocational training designed for specific labour market needs. 

The text also called for strengthening educational opportunities, promoting human rights knowledge among youth, and encouraging dialogue for mutual understanding. Governments are also urged to support the capacity of youth-led organizations so they can participate in national and international development activities. 

While it was Member States that directly negotiated the text, more than 100 youth-led organizations made important contributions. These groups called for more inclusive citizenship, as well as strengthening partnerships with youth to jointly address the serious difficulties young people face. 

Approximately 50 senior Government and UN officials, national youth delegates, civil society organizations and private sector representatives actively engaged in two panel discussions. These discussions were held consecutively on the first day of the meeting, addressing two themes: (i) “Strengthening international cooperation regarding youth and enhancing dialogue, mutual understanding and active youth participation as indispensable elements of efforts towards achieving social integration, full employment and the eradication of poverty,” and (ii) “Challenges to youth development and opportunities for poverty eradication, employment and sustainable development.” 

Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic Affairs, and Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, noted that challenges facing youth development – such as poverty, low-quality education and unemployment – are interrelated. Therefore, he added, “these challenges must be addressed through cross-sectoral policies and programmes that are holistic in nature. Our approach should be respectful of the rights of youth to inherit a healthy planet, and sensitive to youth needs in employment and youth diversity. In short we need to foster sustainable development for youth and their future”. 

At the plenary closing session, the panel co-Chairs presented summaries of the discussions. Strengthening international cooperation for youth was highlighted, as were other ways to support the eradication of poverty, full employment and social integration. For example, participants were reminded to better integrate youth issues in national development agendas, help strengthen national youth institutions and organizations of young people, and promote efforts to enhance inclusion and the effective participation of youth. 

The High-level Meeting on Youth also featured 33 side events by UN agencies, civil society, youth-led organizations, permanent missions and the private sector. 

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