Ladies and Gentlemen,
The United Nations Forum on Forests was the first UN intergovernmental body last year that took immediate action to cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the forest sector.
This important event has been organized as a follow up to last year’s decision of the Forum. I wish to congratulate Members of the Forum for playing such a proactive role in this time of crisis.
The discussions during today’s High-level Round Table convey both a feeling of concern over the challenges we face, and one of hope and optimism that we can overcome them.
Indeed, we are experiencing multiple and unprecedented socio-economic and ecological crises:
• Global temperatures are projected to rise by up to 3.2°C by 2100.
• Over one million species are threatened with extinction.
• Water scarcity could displace 700 million people by 2030, and 2.2 billion lack safe drinking water.
• Ten million hectares of forest are destroyed, and forest fires burn approximately 450 million hectares of land every year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the severity and complexity of the situation. It pushed over 131 million people into extreme poverty in 2020.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We all live on one planet and share one future. Thus, the policies we are setting at the national and international levels, should be underpinned by a coherent approach to nature and humanity. Any action that disturbs the delicate balance between nature and human life will have adverse consequences for all of us.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development addresses the social, economic and environmental needs of people with nature, in an integrated framework that overcomes sectoral approaches and silos.
In this context, forests play a fundamental role to maintain the vital balance between nature and human life. At the same time, forests are under threat of:
• devastating fires,
• illegal logging,
• pests, and
• extreme weather events.
It is therefore essential for the global community to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda, as well as the UN Strategic Plan for Forests, to confront these threats and secure a sustainable future for all.
Allow me to highlight some key messages stemming from our today’s discussion.
First. Sustainable forest management should be integrated in the post-pandemic recovery strategies. Forests make significant contributions to offset many of the social, economic and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other global challenges.
Second. Eradication of poverty and hunger should be given top priority in the post-pandemic recovery efforts. The forest sector, including agroforestry, could play an important role in addressing unemployment and food insecurity.
Third. We must also redouble efforts and use the potential of forests to provide social protection and safety nets, especially to the vulnerable groups. This will help make societies more resilient and better prepared for health and humanitarian emergencies.
Fourth. Sustainable forest management is crucial for ambitious climate action, reversing biodiversity loss and preventing land degradation. Healthy and resilient forests are vital for effective ecosystem management in the post-pandemic era, given their interlinkages with many SDGs.
Fifth. Science and technology, financial resources and capacity building, data collection and analysis, are all critical for addressing the impacts and reducing the risk of future pandemics. Thus, we need:
• better science-policy interface,
• increased investment, and
• more effective governance in our pandemic response and recovery.
Sixth. Strengthening of inter-sectoral collaboration is also an important step to ensure optimal and efficient land-use planning. The pandemic has highlighted the need for enhanced use of online learning platforms, and expanded use of information and communication technologies.
I wish to encourage the Forum to continue to pursue its pivotal role in shaping global policies on forests. We in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs stand ready to support the work of the Forum and spare no efforts to ensure its success.
I thank you.