Side Event on Forests and Life

– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at Side Event on Forests and Life on Land in Nairobi, Kenya



Minister Wakhungu, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Forests are a critical source of and for life. I am pleased to have just helped to plant a tree in this urban forest.

They are both beautiful and beneficial. We admire their form but also their function. They are the largest carbon sink after oceans. They help us mitigate climate change and adapt to it.

For each tree that is felled in a forest, whether or not someone is around to see or hear it, our environment suffers. When our environment suffers, so does our health.

When we protect a forest we are protecting our economy, biodiversity, energy sources, food production and fighting climate change, all at the same time.

Let me make three points here today.

My first point is that, there can be no sustainable development without sustainable management of our forests.

They are the lifeblood of our planet. #25% of the global population depend on forests for their livelihood. More than 80% of terrestrial animal species live in forests. And forests cover 30% of the Earth’s surface.

We can spend all day listing the benefits that forests provide: from preventing land degradation and desertification to reducing the risk of floods and other natural disasters.

Unfortunately, year after year, forest coverage is disappearing. Some 13 million hectares of forests are destroyed annually.

This destruction has been driven by human activities. The onus is therefore on us to address these problems with human-led solutions. We need better laws, better plans and better implementation.

Our development need not come at the expense of forests. We will all lose when our environment is destroyed. And narrow economic gains cannot make up for this terrible loss.

My second point is that we have a plan to tackle deforestation and to ensure a decent life on land for all.

The Sustainable Development Goals give us three more years to sustainably manage forests. We must act urgently to achieve this goal by 2020.

Also, this year the General Assembly adopted the first-ever United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030.

We have our goals. We have a plan. Along the way we have events, such as today’s, to build momentum towards our goals.

We have two important events in the coming year: the 13th session of United Nations Forum on Forests in May 2018 and the review of Sustainable Development Goal 15 at the High-Level Political Forum in summer 2018. These are opportunities to assess the work we have done and to see how much more we have left to do. Let us improve our forest scorecard urgently in time for these assessments.

There can be no decent life for all on a sustainable planet without our forests. Let us preserve our environment as a means to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and ensure sustainable development. 


President of the UN General Assembly

There is a growing movement for the protection of our forests. We hear it from all corners of the globe. From young people. From indigenous communities. We also hear it from the private sector, policymakers and scientists. And from men and women marching in the streets. Let’s act on these calls.

Many governments have integrated forest targets into their national planning. However, we need to close the gaps between policy and action.

To effectively preserve our forests, many developing countries need finance. We need all hands on deck to mobilize new and additional financing for the sustainable management of forests. The private sector has a key role here, particularly with regard to innovative financing.

Capacity-building and the transfer of technology for developing countries is essential. Forests may be located within the national territory of one country but they provide benefits for the world. Thus, we must enable countries to implement SDG 15, taking into account national circumstances and priorities.

In short, we must deliver as one on forests. This means partnerships between north and south, south and south and with all stakeholders. I encourage coherence between all forest-related forums, as well as UN entities such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, UN Environment Programme and others. Only together can we preserve our global commons.


Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, the preservation of our environment is the best long-term investment for human wellbeing.

There is a direct relationship between forest health and human health. Human health mirrors forest health.

There can be no decent life for all on a sustainable planet without our forests. Let us preserve our environment as a means to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and ensure sustainable development.

Thank you.