World’s best forest policies crowned

UN Photo Eskinder Debebe

Rwanda’s National Forest Policy was proclaimed the winner of the 2011 Future Policy Award. The Gambia’s Community Forest Policy and the US Lacey Act with its amendment of 2008 received the Silver Awards. The three winning policies which most effectively contribute to the conservation and sustainable development of forests for the benefit of current and future generations were announced today at UN Headquarters in New York.

“Exemplary policy solutions do exist. The Future Policy Award celebrates the best of them. The aim of the award is to raise global awareness for these policies and speed up policy action. We need visionary policies which support a sustainable and just world and protect future generations,” says Alexandra Wandel, Director of the World Future Council, an international policy research organisation that provides decision-makers with effective policy solutions.

“Rwanda has sought not only to make its forests a national priority, but has also used them as a platform to revolutionise its stances on women’s rights and creating a healthy environment,” says Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Honorary World Future Councillor and Founder of the Green Belt Movement.

Despite continuing population and land pressures, Rwanda is on course to reach its goal of increasing forest cover to 30% of total land area achieving a major reversal in the trend of declining forest cover. Forest cover has already increased by 37% since 1990. Massive reforestation and planting activities that promoted indigenous species and involved the local population were undertaken, and new measures such as agro-forestry and education about forest management were implemented.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Honorary World Future Councillor visited Rwanda in February this year together with Goodwill Ambassador Edward Norton and states: “Rwanda is an inspiration for the world. The national policy to heal and restore nature, through a border-to-border restoration programme, will create the basis for a healthy and resilient society of the future. This policy is placing Rwanda firmly on the map as a global environmental leader, and I hope many other countries will follow.”

The first Silver Award went to The Gambia’s Community Forest Policy, which has achieved sustainable forest management and poverty alleviation by handing control of forests to the communities that use them. The second Silver Award went to the US Lacey Act amendment of 2008 which prohibits all trade in wood and plant products that are knowingly illegally sourced from a US state or any foreign country. In total, twenty policies from sixteen countries were nominated for the award.

Jan McAlpine, Director of the Secretariat of the UN Forum on Forests within DESA, states: “Celebrating innovation to benefit the world’s forests is one of the primary objectives of the International Year of Forests, 2011. This year’s Future Policy Award recognises policies that have succeeded in translating a vision for a sustainable future into tangible action. The UNFF applauds the three winning governments in Rwanda, The Gambia and the US for their extraordinary sustainable forest management policies: incorporating social, environmental and economic actions into a sustainable future for their countries.”

The announcement will be followed by an awards ceremony at the Central Park Zoo tonight.

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