UNFF9 High Level Ministerial Segment High level Roundtable on Forests and Rio+20

Distinguished Ministers and Heads of Delegations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to participate in this high-level roundtable.

This is a distinct opportunity for me and my colleagues to hear from senior decision-makers on how forest issues should be integrated into the Rio+20 process.

As you know, three main objectives have been set for the Conference: to renew political commitment for sustainable development, to assess progress made and gaps in implementation since the first Rio Conference, and address new and emerging challenges.

Sustainable forest management should be central to each of these objectives.

As you discuss and debate how UNFF can contribute to these objectives, I ask that you focus on critical elements.

To be frank with you, as the Conference Secretary-General, I have repeatedly sought Member States’ guidance on what they expect to achieve in Rio in 2012. That guidance is yet to emerge.

I therefore invite you to keep the following elements in mind in your deliberation.

First, go beyond a focus on the environmental aspects of forests.

Forests are the source of livelihoods for 1.6 billion people across the world, many of whom are poor.

Forests contribute directly to poverty reduction by providing jobs, incomes, and consumption goods for poor families.

They also promote social inclusion of marginalized groups including local communities and indigenous peoples.

We also need to emphasize the inter-linkages of forests to consumption and production patterns and their connection to climate change, natural disasters and energy insecurity.

Most important, in the context of the Rio+20, we need to ask – are we making progress in meeting all the political comments – commitments enshrined in the Rio Declaration, Forest Principles, Agenda 21 and in the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests?

What are the gaps in implementation? And what are new and emerging challenges, other than forest degradation and deforestation?

I would be eager to hear more about those critical elements.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A people-centred approach to forest management is necessary to advance a green economy – one in which business practices are rooted in sound environmental and social principles.

A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is one of the thematic focus areas of Rio + 20.

So it is natural – and important – to ask: How can we use Rio+20 to highlight the connections between a comprehensive, people-centred approach to forests and a green economy?

How are governments reacting to green economy initiatives? How can governments tap forest resources in fostering a green economy?

Distinguished Ministers and Delegates,

A second key element to consider is the existence of international forest frameworks already in place. And this is linked to the second thematic focus area of Rio + 20: Institutional framework for sustainable development.

As you know, in 2007, all 192 member states of the United Nations agreed to the U.N. Non-legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests – also called the Forest Instrument.

It is the only globally-agreed instrument that provides clarity on the meaning of “sustainable forest management”.

While we have this common framework in place, as well as the Global Objective on Forests, they need to be fully operationalized.

Specifically, how can you integrate the provisions of these frameworks into your national forest programmes? Into climate change, desertification, biodiversity national and regional action plans?

What are the benefits of setting timelines for the Global Objectives on Forests? Should we align these timelines with the MDG targets?

In this regard, I also want to bring your attention to Redd Plus.

It is expected that provisions for REDD Plus will become part of a legally-binding agreement on climate change, in other words, a forest-related institutional framework under UNFCCC.

While this development is certainly welcome, it also poses a critical question in relation to the Non-legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests.

Redd Plus aims to achieve identical objectives as those of the Forest Instrument. Will Redd Plus, with its funding being actively backed by donors, be given priority?

Will provisions for Redd Plus, when integrated into a legally binding climate change agreement, take precedence over the non-legally binding Forest Instrument?

Already, so much talk has been focused on Redd Plus. What are the implications for the Forest Instrument?

My staff cautioned me against raising this question. But I think it is worth asking and I look forward to your views and perspectives.


As Secretary-General of the Conference, I have come and raised a number of specific questions. In the final analysis, the question is: what do you from Rio+20. I am very keen to hear your ideas, proposals and recommendations that might answer these questions and others.

We need innovative and creative ideas on how to maximize the political support that Rio+20 could lend to the forest agenda.

I look forward to a dynamic and productive discussion today.

Thank you.

File date: 
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development