Highlights Vol 20, No. 03 - March 2016

Forest and water – sustain life and livelihoods

To increase awareness of the vital, symbiotic relationship between forests and water, UN-Water and the UN Forum on Forests are combining forces for a joint celebration of the International Day of Forests and World Water Day on Monday, 21 March at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

“Forests cover 30.6 % of the world’s land area and more than 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests for food, water, medicines and fuel, as well as their jobs and livelihoods,” Manoel Sobral Filho, Director of the UN Forum on Forests, said, putting the importance of forests in perspective.

“Throughout history, as populations increase, forest land has been converted to agriculture and other uses.  The world’s population is predicted to reach 8.4 billion people within the next 15 years – with most of the growth in Africa and Asia – and the demand for forest goods and services will increase proportionally.”

Forests are especially crucial for some of the world’s largest cities such as Durban, Jakarta, Rio de Janeiro, Bogotá, New York, and Madrid, as they draw a significant portion of their drinking water from forested areas.

“75 per cent of freshwater used for household, agricultural and industrial needs worldwide is provided through forested catchments,” Sobral said.

Field CoverageForests and water also play an important role in national and global economies. Sectors with heavily water-dependent jobs include forestry, along with jobs in agriculture and industry. The 2016 World Water Development Report (WWDR), to be launched on World Water Day, estimates that more than 1.4 billion jobs, or 42% of the world’s total active workforce, are heavily water-dependent. The formal forestry sector (roundwood production, wood processing and pulp and paper) accounts for nearly 1 per cent of total global GDP, and it is estimated that the informal forest sector is far larger.

The significance of forests in the livelihoods of so many, however, has not limited the number of threats that humanity inflicts on them.

“There are many threats to forests and water, from unsustainable use and pollution, to climate change and natural disasters.  Every year, 7 million hectares of natural forest are lost, and this is mostly due to illegal deforestation.”

“In the case of forests and water, one way that some countries are addressing this is through payments for watershed services schemes/programs that include forest conservation and regeneration.  This provides an incentive to upstream land users to adopt sustainable practices that ensure the supply of environmental services to downstream land users.“

Through forward-looking policy and dedicated action, societies can actively contribute to maintain and restore the health of many of our forests.”

“Planted forests, when well managed, can help meet the need for forest goods, while helping reduce the pressure on natural forests,” Sobral said. “This is particularly relevant when you consider that energy from wood is our single most important source of renewable energy, representing 9 percent of the total primary renewable energy supply worldwide.”

To better preserve their forests and water sources, natural resources have to be managed in a way that we can meet the needs of the current and future generations, according to Sobral.

For more information:

International Day of Forests – 21 March

World Water Day – 22 March

Tackling production in least developed countries

At Leather Wings, a small shoe-making outfit based in central Kathmandu, four women sit in a small room cutting up bright red cowhide imported from India. Next door a dozen of their colleagues stitch the shapes together on hand-powered sewing machines. The owner Samrat Dahal says the boots, designed by a German expat, sell via the Internet in India, China and Italy.

The company, founded in 1985, sums up some of the issues facing the Nepalese economy: entrepreneurial leaders at the helm of a committed workforce making a competitive and quality product for which there is ample overseas demand. The problem isn’t finding buyers; it’s scaling up production enough to meet that demand. Exports by the handful of players in Nepal’s shoe industry totalled only US$20 million in 2014.

Nepal, in turn, characterizes the problems facing many other LDCs (Least Developed Countries). At the risk of over-simplification, they just don’t produce enough.

The challenges of building productive capacity in LDCs like Nepal will be the main topic of discussion at this year’s plenary of the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) on 14-18 March. The CDP report to the UN Economic and Social Council, to be finalized by the 24 experts at the plenary, will discuss the ingredients needed to boost production in LDCs to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs), improving productivity in a process that economists call ‘structural transformation’.

The report will argue that while some LDCs grew fast in recent decades, only a few managed to transform their economies. “Better access to foreign markets helped, but it wasn’t enough,” says CDP member Professor Diane Elson of Essex University.

For Leather Wings the bigger obstacles are finance, technology and the cost of inputs bought from abroad (Nepal has no tanning operation). Dahal would like to borrow enough money to invest in electric sewing machines. Mechanization would be more efficient and cut costs. But even basic technology is hard to come by, and banks are reluctant to lend.

LDCs need to tackle these issues and more, putting in place economic policies for growth as well as industrial policies that target and link specific sectors. “Ensuring that social outcomes match – and contribute to – economic progress means not only investing more in health and education, but also improving its quality and distribution,” says Elson. More investment is needed in social protection and governance.

Building sustainable production will be essential in achieving the 2030 Agenda. SDGs 8, 9, 10 and 17 relate directly to productive capacity.

Join CDP members Giovanni Andrea Cornia, Diane Elson, Stephan Klasen and Keith Nurse at a panel discussion on productive capacity and dynamic transformation for sustainable development from 1:15 pm to 2:45 pm EST on Wednesday 16 March in Conference room C. The event will be broadcast live via UN Web TV.

During the plenary, the CDP will also review its work on the LDCs and define its work programme from 2016-2018, when several more countries are expected to approach graduation from the category. As part of its role in providing independent advice to ECOSOC on issues critical to the international development agenda, the penultimate day will feature a discussion on a proposed new categorization of aid known as Total Official Support for Sustainable Development, which for the first time considers private financial flows alongside government assistance.

From 1:15 pm – 2:15 pm on Tuesday 15 March CDP members José Antonio Alonso, José Antonio Ocampo and Keun Lee will conduct a Facebook chat about their new research, Global Governance and Rules for the Post-2015 Era. Join the discussion here and to share comments and questions via Twitter, use #AskUNCDP.

For more information:

Committee for Development Policy

Follow Us