Looking Back at the International Year of Forests, 2011

The Year has included well over a thousand events worldwide, including conferences, publications, art and photo exhibits, field trips and contests

Many of the events have emphasized the year’s theme of “Forests for People,” conveying humanity’s reliance on forests for our well-being and survival. Indeed, the year has provided a means to bring the many voices of the forest sector together and build momentum towards future cooperation in sustainable forest management.

2011 Future Policy Award

Celebrating innovative policies was at the heart of one such event, which challenged policy makers to consider forests as providing better living conditions for present and future generations. For 2011 Future Policy Award, the World Future Council partnered with the UNFF Secretariat, the FAO and the CBD Secretariat to honour Rwanda’s National Forest Policy with the gold medal during a ceremony on 21 September. 

The country implemented rigorous policies to foster biodiversity conservation, ecotourism, green jobs and increased forest cover by 37 percent, in spite of continued population and land pressures. The silver medal is shared by the USA’s Lacey Act with its amendment of 2008 and the Gambia’s Community Forest Policy, initiated in 1995.

“Governments are rarely acknowledged for effective policy and this is one instance in which instead of criticism, they were applauded for positive change,” said Ms. Jan Mc Alpine, Director of UNFF Secretariat.         

Art, writing and video competitions highlighting the year’s underlying theme have presented valuable information and perspective on forests, creating an environment for dialogue and action. Notably, the call for improvement in our actions has been heeded by future generations of forest stewards in creative and thought-provoking ways.

International Letter Writing Competition

The 40th International Letter Writing Competition organized by the Universal Postal Union, prompted youth to imagine themselves as trees writing to people, advocating protection for the world’s forests and their natural resources. The UPU received more than 2 million letters written by children from 60 of its member countries. This year’s first place is shared by Charlée Gittens from Barbados and Wang Sa from China, for what jury members called “powerful” and “well crafted” compositions. Winners were awarded in their home countries on 9 October 2011 at ceremonies held in honour of World Post Day.  

Children’s Art Contest celebrating forests

The Secretariat has also partnered with the Gabarron Foundation for the 2011 International Children’s Art Contest, a program of the Queen Sofia Children’s Art Museum in Spain. This year’s theme of “Celebrate the Forests” challenges kids between 5 and 14 years of age to use imagery to conjure the ecological services provided by forests. The initiative plays an important role in raising awareness from childhood, on the benefits and safeguarding of these valuable natural resources.  Since November 2002, the Queen Sofia Children’s Art Museum has created a rich legacy, collecting more than 50,000 works of children’s art from all over the world. The contest will culminate with an awards ceremony and gala in New York in February 2012. 

International Forest Film Festival

The first International Forest Film Festival, organized by Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat was announced in October 2010 and received over 165 submissions from more than 30 countries. Winners were selected across six categories, with “The Queen of Trees” taking the award for Best of Festival. 

Book presenting articles of 75 authors published

The UNFF Secretariat collaborated with Tudor Rose publishing to produce a fully-illustrated book Forests for People. It offers articles from over 75 authors, many of them senior forest leaders and environmental ministers from around the world, relating their work in sustainable forest management. Their stories draw upon global experiences, reflecting how people are changing their interaction with forests to conserve and replenish its resources. The book will be available at the start of 2012.

The International Forest Heroes Programme and Awards

Worldwide, everyday people are sustainably managing natural resources in passionate, innovative and strategic ways. Pioneered by the UNFF Secretariat, the International Forest Heroes Programme and Awards honours and celebrates the efforts of “unsung” heroes dedicating their lives to nurturing forests.   

Fifteen short-listed finalists were announced at Forest Day 5 alongside the UNFCC COP17 in Durban on 4 December. They were selected in a personal capacity by a jury panel consisting of Frances Seymour of Centre for International Forestry Research, Eduardo Rojas-Briales of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Jan A. Hartke of the Clinton Climate Initiative, Emmanuel Ze Meka of the International Tropical Timber Organization and Jan McAlpine of the UNFF Secretariat.

Short-listed finalists are listed in alphabetical order:

Africa: Million Belay (Ethiopia), Mphatheleni Makaulule (South Africa) and Paul Nzegha Mzeka (Cameroon)

Asia: Panut Hadisiswoyo (Indonesia), Shigeatsu Hatakeyama (Japan) and Sulaymonbek Saidbekov (Tajikistan)

Europe: Karl Peter Hasenkamp (Germany), Anatoly Lebedev (Russia) and Mika Vanhanen (Finland)

Latin America and Caribbean: Paulo Adario (Brazil), Monica Hinojosa (Ecuador) and Felipe Milanez (Brazil)

North America: Fred Pinto (Canada),  Rhiannon Tomtishen (USA) and Madison Vorva (USA)

Winners from each region will be announced and awarded at the Forests 2011 closing ceremony in February 2012. Their stories and work will be featured on the Forest 2011 website to continue to inspire the work of current and future heroes.

None of these initiatives would have been possible without the support from the following donors: Austria, Croatia and Norway. 

Fore more information: 

International Year of Forests, 2011: http://www.un.org/en/events/iyof2011/

Centre for International Forestry Research: http://www.cifor.cgiar.org