Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Opening Plenary of Forest Day 6

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by congratulating Mr. Holmgren on his appointment as CIFOR’s new Director General. Congratulations also go to members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) for building on the past experiences and successes of Forest Day.

I also would like to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation to our host, the State and People of Qatar, for their support.

This is the 6th Forest Day convened during the UN Climate Change Conference. By joining forces with partners in agriculture and rural development, we are recognizing how forests provide broader and more meaningful solutions for a sustainable world, within a living landscape.

This broader vision of forests provides a one-of-a-kind platform. It allows for in-depth, cross-sectoral discussions that make forests part of the solution in meeting sustainable development challenges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our world’s forests are facing unprecedented stresses today. The challenges require us to go beyond focusing on a single value of forests alone.

We need to balance the economic, social and environmental values of forests. We must take a broader system-wide perspective. We must embrace the inter-connections between agriculture, forests, energy, water, biodiversity, people and their livelihoods.

With this in mind, I would like to share with you a few key points about the forest agenda, from the United Nations perspective.

First, I will focus on the economic dimensions of forests. These include their cash and non- cash values, a key focus of discussion during the 10th session of the UN Forum on Forests that will take place in Istanbul, Turkey next April.

While we recognize that forests contribute to sustainable development, their benefits and values are often not fully understood. Formal cash contributions of forests to developing economies are at $326 billion. This is more than twice the size of total Official Development Assistance (ODA) flows. Non-cash contributions, which include livelihood needs drawn from forests, are critical. But they are almost invisible in national accounting. If we take these contributions into account, the total economic contributions of forests, in the developing world, are estimated to be more than 6-8 times the ODA flow to these countries. 

In addition, forests contribute significantly to sustainable development through their cross-sectoral linkages. For example, forests contribute to agriculture through the provision of freshwater. Agriculture uses 70% of global freshwater, which forests help conserve and protect.

Another example is access to energy.  Over 80% of total energy consumption in many developing countries comes from fuelwood. Globally, 2.7 billion people rely on fuelwood and charcoal as their primary source of energy. These cross-sectoral benefits of forests are often not recognized. Yet, they are of critical importance to people’s lives and livelihoods

Second, I consider it important for us to take into account the findings of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests’ Advisory Group on Finance (AGF) 2012 Study. The Study provides the state of forest finance at various levels, and from various sources. I will to draw attention to the geographic, thematic and data gaps that were underlined in the Study. I also wish to underscore the critical decrease of financial resources to address these gaps.

Let me point to a few aspects. For example, we convene Forest Day 6 in a part of the world dominated by dryland forests. Yet they, together with other low forest cover countries (LFCCs) and small island developing states (SIDS), do not receive adequate funding to ensure that forests are managed sustainably. REDD+ funding go mainly to tropical forest cover countries to help mitigate emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

No single solution can address the need for forest financing. By linking the research to the policies, and working hand-in hand with partners, we can mobilize actions from all stakeholders. We can jointly devise supportive and complementary initiatives to solve this forest finance challenge.

I also wish to take this opportunity to highlight two ongoing processes that aim at reshaping the UN’s development work and that will impact on how we move the forest agenda forward.

The first is the follow-up to the recent Rio+20 Conference, which articulated a far-reaching vision. It is our responsibility to help turn that vision into reality.

In this regard, the General Assembly has been addressing a number of issues, including promoting agreements on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), developing a facilitation mechanism to disseminate eco-friendly technologies, and adopting a 10-year framework of programmes to encourage sustainable consumption and production patterns.

At Rio, Member States also reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to sustainable forests management. Here, Forest Day 6 provides a constructive entry point to follow up on Rio+20 outcomes. It demonstrates integrated action from the forest and agriculture communities in support of sustainable natural resource management, in the context of sustainable development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 remains foremost on our collective agenda. With only three years remaining, the UN has embarked on preparations for the post-2015 UN development agenda, with sustainable development at its core. DESA is co-leading the UN Task Team charged with planning, together with UNDP.

An important test of our resolve to build “the future we want”, will be measured in how successfully we strengthen cooperation — from both within the UN system, and with all our development partners. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Forest Day has made historic progress in helping to raise the awareness of forests within the climate change agenda, inspiring visionary changes and integrated initiatives  toward a more sustainable pathway.

As we continue to grapple with multiple challenges, we need, above all, continued leadership and commitment. The choices we make now will shape our history and our world.

I wish you all success as you chart the journey ahead. Please rest assured that in DESA, and through the UNFF, we stand ready to support your work.

Thank you for your attention.

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