Highlights Vol 23, No. 05 - May 2019

Alec Baldwin joins call to protect indigenous activists

Accomplished American actor and environmental activist, Alec Baldwin, spoke out at the UN Headquarters in New York against violence perpetrated on indigenous activists that defend their lands and forests from exploitation. Speaking on the sidelines of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Mr. Baldwin said that, on average, four environment defenders lost their lives every week in 2017. Most of them were indigenous people. “The people who are protesting on behalf of the greater good of all the people (…) are criminalized and the people that murder them roam free,” he said.

Calling on governments to persecute these atrocities, motivated by certain companies’ pursuit of profit, Mr. Baldwin stressed that people everywhere can also make a change through informed and responsible consumer choices.

“I still believe that the greater number of people around the world want to do the right thing,” he said. “How many people would choose to murder indigenous people to increase how much meat they eat or how much oil they burn?”

Mr. Baldwin was at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to moderate a UN Environment‑hosted side event on indigenous forest defenders. Another speaker at the event, indigenous activist from Indonesia, Rukka Sombolinggi, made a heart-wrenching plea for responsible consumer choices to “stop eating from [indigenous peoples’] blood and tears.”

Ms. Sombolinggi believes that the security of indigenous peoples can be improved by establishing better communication channels with the consumers and by divesting from companies involved in violence against indigenous peoples. “We have to make sure that there is no more investment for companies that kill us,” she urged.

The indigenous peoples “never oppose development,” Ms. Sombolinggi explained, but they expect the companies involved to respect their rights to free, prior and informed consent. Otherwise, development projects risk becoming an aggression.

The 18th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which focuses on the protection of traditional indigenous knowledge, runs through 3 May 2019.

For more information:

18th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

Forests play vital role in empowering people, promoting economic growth and combating climate change

It is estimated that 1.6 billion people, or 25 per cent of the human population, depend on forests for subsistence, livelihood, employment and income generation. Forests provide ecosystem services, such as timber, food, fuel, fodder, non-wood products and shelter – which are essential for human well-being. At the same time, they contribute to soil and water conservation, carbon storage and clean air. When forests are sustainably managed, they can be healthy, productive, resilient and renewable ecosystems, which can thrive while at the same time providing essential goods and services to people worldwide.

The critical role of forests for a healthy planet, was also stressed by UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin at the most recent COP24 in Poland.

“Forests are central in developing solutions both to mitigate and adapt to climate change,” Mr. Liu said. “These terrestrial ecosystems have already removed nearly one third of human-produced carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere. Through sustainable forest management, they could remove much more.”

From 6 to 10 May 2019, the UN Forum on Forests will hold its 14th session (UNFF14) at UN Headquarters in New York, bringing together representatives from Member States, international and regional organisations and stakeholders to take stock of the progress in implementing the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030. UNFF14 will also provide a timely opportunity for the Forum to provide input to the 2019 meetings of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The Strategic plan and its six Global Forest Goals and associated targets provide a global framework for sustainably managing all types of forests and trees, halting and reversing deforestation and forest degradation, and increasing forest area by 2030. The Plan provides a blueprint to promote forest contributions in implementing the 2030 Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UNFF14 agenda includes discussions on contributions of forests in accelerating progress in achieving the SDGs and in particular the SDGs under review by HLPF 2019, namely SDGs 4 (quality education), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 10 (reduced inequalities), 13 (climate action), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and 17 (partnerships). Based on this, the UNFF14 Bureau has identified three thematic priorities for UNFF14:

  • Forests and climate change;
  • Forests, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and employment; and
  • Forests, peaceful and inclusive societies, reduced inequality, education, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

To support discussions on these thematic priorities, a set of background analytical studies were commissioned. To promote greater awareness of the Global Forest Goals of the Strategic Plan, the UNFF Secretariat has also produced a booklet to be launched at UNFF14.

UNFF14 will also discuss contributions by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, regional organisations and Major Groups in implementing the Strategic Plan; private sector engagement; monitoring, assessment and reporting frameworks; forest financing including capacity development activities of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network; and communication and outreach.

The UN Forum on Forests is a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council and is composed of 197 Member States of the UN and State Members of the Specialized Agencies. Since its inception in 2000, the Forum has reached numerous forest policy milestones including the agreement on the first UN Forest Instrument in 2007, establishment of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN) in 2015, and agreement on the first UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 in 2017.

Through its work and through these instruments, the Forum and the international community continue to work to safeguard and protect our forests, which are essential to life here on Earth.

“When we reach the signpost of 2030, we hope to be able to look back with satisfaction on all that we have achieved and galvanize the next generation to grow and sustain our planet’s forests, because life without them is inconceivable,” Mr. Liu conveyed in his recent message for the International Day of Forests 2019.

For more information:

UN Forum on Forests

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