World Leaders, Environment Experts Call for Sustainable Forest Management as United Nations Forum Launches International Year, 2011

2 February 2011

World Leaders, Environment Experts Call for Sustainable Forest Management as United Nations Forum Launches International Year, 2011

2 February 2011
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

United Nations Forum on Forests

Ninth Session

10th Meeting (AM & PM)

World Leaders, Environment Experts Call for Sustainable Forest Management


as United Nations Forum Launches International Year, 2011


Nobel Laureate Delivers Keynote Speech;

General Assembly President, Secretary-General also Address Event

Environmental experts and world leaders called today for the sustainable management of forests in the interest of human development as the United Nations Forum on Forests began its High-level Ministerial Segment by launching the International Year of Forests, 2011, which was followed by discussions on people-centred forestry and financing for forest communities.

“We have a chance to agree on how best to realize the full potential of forests — for sustainable development, economic stability, the fight against poverty and our efforts to ensure future prosperity for all,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as he opened the proceedings via video message.  By proclaiming the Year, the General Assembly had created an important platform from which to educate the global community about the great value of forests, while continuing to link all global efforts in sustainable forest management following on the climate agreements reached in Cancun, Mexico, in late 2010 and leading up to the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

General Assembly Joseph Deiss ( Switzerland) led the launch of the International Year as Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai delivered a keynote address and filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand screened his short film Forest.  Punctuating the programme were clips from the International Forest Film Festival, which was organized by the Forum on Forests Secretariat in collaboration with the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.

“We have to eradicate poverty, but not the forests,” Mr. Deiss emphasized, noting that the International Year, proclaimed by the Assembly in 2006, aimed to raise awareness of the importance and methods of forest management, conservation and development of all types of forests in the interest of sustainable development, poverty reduction and maintaining a breathable atmosphere.

Ms. Maathai, Nobel Laureate and United Nations Messenger of Peace for Environment and Climate Change, said human civilization had always been intertwined with trees.  Forests were the bedrock of biodiversity, providing many environmental services, she stressed, warning that the loss of their resources threatened the peace.

Describing sustainability as “the mother of all other Millennium Development Goals”, she said that improving income in the short term though destructive logging, charcoal-burning, settlement, and agricultural conversion only exacerbated long-term financial and economic challenges with the onset of natural disasters and the loss of resources.  “The gods are not to blame,” she emphasized.  “Many disasters are man-made and preventable.  Governments have a responsibility to ensure that the ecological services provided by trees and forests are available for the common good of all communities, including future generations.”

Also speaking during the launch were Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who expressed hope that the International Year would translate intent into action by the application of all funds pledged for forests and by efforts to ensure the success of Rio+20.

Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo, Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, spoke in his capacity as Chair of the Sixteenth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Sixth Conference of Parties Meeting as the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

Božidar Pankretić, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development, Forestry and Water Management of Croatia, said it had been his country that had proposed the International Year, and spoke of Croatia’s stewardship of its forests.

Stanislas Kamanzi, Minister for Environment and Lands of Rwanda, said his country had agreed to act synergistically to ensure the integration of environment and development for the utmost fulfilment of basic human needs.  It was necessary to redefine international short-, medium-and longer-term objectives in forestry, he added.

Also delivering statements during the launch were Tom Rosser, Assistant Deputy Minister for Natural Resources of Canada; Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat; Lisa Samford, a filmmaker and former Executive Director of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival; Monique Barbut, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF); Stewart Maginnis, Director of Development and Environment, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); and Felix Finkbeiner, a 12-year-old student from Germany campaigning for the planting of a trillion trees around the world.

The Forum continued its Ministerial Segment in the afternoon with parallel round table discussions titled, respectively, “Forests for people” and “Finance for forest-dependent communities”.

The Ministerial Segment of the Forum’s ninth session will continue at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 3 February, with two more round table discussions.


The United Nations Forum on Forests began the High-level Ministerial Segment of its two-week ninth biennial session this morning with the launch of the International Year of Forests, 2011, which was expected to be followed by two parallel high-level round tables.  For background information see Press Release ENV/DEV/1186 of 1 February 2011.

Opening Remarks

JOSEPH DEISS ( Switzerland), President of the General Assembly, enumerated the important roles that forests played in sustaining livelihoods, traditions, cultures and breath.  However, he warned:  “Each minute that we spend on this planet breathing in and breathing out, about 25 hectares of forest are lost, mainly due to conversion to other uses.”  Such excessive use and mismanagement of forests seriously undermined the fight against poverty, climate change and natural disasters, he said, adding that history was a reminder that deforestation had caused entire civilizations to collapse.

He said the International Year, declared by the Assembly in 2006, aimed to raise awareness of the sustainable management, conservation and development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations, and in the interest of sustainable development and poverty reduction.  “We have to eradicate poverty, but not the forests,” he added, emphasizing the linkages between the goals of the International Year of Diversity, 2010, the upcoming General Assembly High-level Assembly Meeting on Desertification and efforts to mitigate climate change.

“It is my hope,” he continued, “that this Year of Forests will raise high political awareness and galvanize activities from the grassroots up so that the interlinked challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change and desertification can be effectively tackled for the benefit of sustainable development.”  The Year was an opportunity to share lessons learned and best practices, he said, paying tribute to the policymakers, civil society leaders and academics present today, who had campaigned tirelessly in favour of forests and sustainable forest management.  He said he expected that “in 2011 and beyond, every country and each citizen of our planet will take action in favour of forests and bring this message across:  we are all dependent on forests as much as forests are dependent on us.”

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that by declaring the Year, the Assembly had created an important platform for educating the global community about the great value of forests and the extreme social, economic and environmental costs of losing them.  The package of measures agreed upon at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, included progress on the conservation and sustainable management of forests, as well as the decision to move forward with the REDD-plus programme, he said.  “Let us build on this promising initiative so that present and future generations continue to benefit from the rich diversity of forests.”  Recalling that it had been concern about forest management at the Rio Earth Summit nearly two decades ago that had led to the establishment of the Forum on Forests, he said that during the International Year, “as we look ahead to the Rio+20 conference for 2012, we have a chance to agree on how best to realize the full potential of forests — for sustainable development, economic stability, the fight against poverty and our efforts to ensure future prosperity for all.”

BOŽIDAR PANKRETIĆ, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development, Forestry and Water Management of Croatia, said his country’s people and forests enjoyed a centuries-old relationship based on the principle of sustainable forest management.  Croatia was proud that all its State-owned forests exceeding 2 million hectares had earned the prestigious Forest Stewardship Council certificate, he said.  It was in that vein that the country had proposed the proclamation of 2011 as the International Year of Forests, he said, adding that Croatia supported the raising of public awareness as well as increased public participation in sustainable forest management as the most appropriate way forward.

The International Year presented an excellent opportunity for progress towards realizing the Millennium Development Goals, he continued, most notably the eradication of poverty, in addition to environmental preservation and global development cooperation.  If implemented correctly, the International Year could serve as an important input for the Rio+20 Conference, he said, noting, however, that it was necessary to ensure that concrete efforts undertaken during the Year would be continued beyond 2011.

He went on to stress that achieving the four Global Objectives on Forests, stopping and reversing deforestation, strengthening forest-based economies, increasing protected-forest and sustainable forest management zones, as well as raising funding for those efforts were the basic imperatives whose implementation must become an urgent priority.  Croatia hoped the implementation of the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests would be carried out at all levels, but recognized that such a goal could not be achieved without a clear vision of adequate financing.  For that reason, Croatia supported efforts by the Ad Hoc Expert Group to identify strategies for mobilizing resources from all sources, he said.

STANISLAS KAMANZI, Minister for Environment and Lands of Rwanda, said his country had agreed to act synergistically to ensure that environment and development were integrated for the utmost fulfilment of basic human needs.  The current session of the Forum on Forests offered an opportune occasion not only to take stock of the international community’s achievements on forest issues, but also to underscore where it had been failing consistently, he said, adding that it was necessary to redefine short- medium- and longer-term objectives.

Noting that his country had long been “held up by ill-informed policies”, he said many of them entailed significant negative effects on the environment.  The 1994 genocide and its aftermath had been accompanied by a host of destructive actions, including some affecting Rwanda’s natural ecosystems and weakening related livelihoods.  While the country had made significant strides in protecting its environment since then — including by rehabilitating degraded natural forests, restoring marshlands and recently completing the National Land Use and Development Master Plan — significant challenges remained in the area of sustainable forest management, he said.

He announced that by 2035, Rwanda would have achieved a “country-wide reversal” of the current degradation of soil, land, water and forest resources in such a way as demonstrably to improve quality and resilience, while providing new opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.  In the short term, he added, Rwanda had committed to developing a comprehensive action plan for that initiative as well as “prompt forest restoration activities”, in line with national development priorities.

SHA ZUKANG, Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, welcomed the wide participation in today’s launch, saying he hoped it would provide the momentum needed.  There had been too little focus on the fact that least 1.6 billion people depended on forests for their living.  Many jobs provided by forestry were of the “green” nature needed to mitigate climate change, and forests provided many goods, such as medicine and lumber, he said.  Emphasizing that the International Year must be used to translate interest into action, he called for the disbursement of all pledged funds and their application to progress on sustainable forest management.  He called for help in galvanizing global political support for both those goals, and for the success of Rio+20, which would concentrate on green economies and a global sustainable-development framework.

JUAN MANUEL GOMEZ ROBLEDO, Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, spoke in his capacity as Chair of the Sixteenth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Sixth Conference of Parties Meeting as the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.  He said the Cancun Agreements signed in his country as part of recent climate change talks were an important step forward in forestry activities.  Carbon emissions related to the degradation of forest soils were the world’s third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, he said, stressing that forest management measures were imperative in the fight against global warming.

Based on a long-term approach, the Cancun Agreements incorporated a gradual increase in levels of commitment as well as constant reviews that would allow global temperature rise to remain under 2°C, he continued.  The accords also contributed necessary mechanisms, including one to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.  It was now up to countries to implement and refine them through multilateral negotiations and national strategies for sustainable development at all levels.  The challenges were great but surmountable if approached gradually in order to consolidate a collective response.  Every effort should therefore be maximized, gaps filled and institutions made operational, he said, stressing the importance of achieving concrete results at the upcoming Durban Conference.

He went on to say that the gradual approach must develop a strengthened regime that would provide incentives for open participation, and affirmed that the REDD+ objectives of reducing, halting and reversing the loss of carbon and forest cover widely coincided with the Global Objectives on Forests adopted by the Forum.  The International Year provided an opportunity to respond to the linked challenges in a unified manner, he said, welcoming the determination of several developing countries, including Rwanda, to reverse the degradation of their water and forest resources while creating economic opportunities.


TOM ROSSER, Assistant Deputy Minister for Natural Resources of Canada said his country had initiated discussions with the Government of Rwanda and other partners on participation in the historic Rwanda Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative.  To achieve the aims of sustainable forest management, Canada had launched a national Model Forest Association, he said, noting that today there were more than 50 such associations around the world, which together formed the Global Model Forest Network.

Noting that his country worked with the African Model Forest Network, and would continue to partner with the Forum on Forests and other stakeholders to raise sustainable forest management standards in Africa, he said Canada had long supported sustainable forest management and restoration on the continent through the regional Model Forest Network, the Congo Basin Forest Partnership and other associations.  Two model forests had already been launched in Cameroon and two more were set to be launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Canada hoped to accompany Rwanda through its journey into sustainable forest management, and would continue to support model forests worldwide, in addition to contributing to research promoting the goals of sustainable forest management.

WANGARI MAATHAI, United Nations Messenger of Peace for Environment and Climate Change, said human civilization had always been intertwined with trees and forests, in the way that people related to and protected them, and in the way they in turn enhanced humankind’s spiritual, cultural and social well-being.  Forests were the bedrock of biodiversity, providing many environmental services, she said, warning that the loss of their resources threatened the peace.

Governments knew they could not improve the quality of life and maintain peace without managing national resources in a sustainable, responsible and accountable while ensuring that they were shared equitably, she said.  Yet it remained difficult to galvanize the political will needed to embrace policies to prevent deforestation, forest degradation and the destruction of diversity, she said, pointing out that communities living in resource-rich forests remained poverty stricken.

As Goodwill Ambassador for the Congo Forest Ecosystem, she thanked the Governments of Norway and the United Kingdom for supporting the creation of a fund for the basin, but noted that it had been very difficult to find more partners.  Without adequate support for such efforts, the degradation of forests would continue, she warned.  On the other hand, she congratulated those responsible for the declining deforestation seen in the world’s three great river basins — the Congo, the Amazon and the Borneo-Mekong.  An important event during the International Year would be the summit on those basins, which the President of Congo had offered to host.

“Where there is political will, commitment, transparency and accountability, there will always be a way to find financial support,” she said.  Describing the sustainability of trees, forests and water, among others, as “the mother of all other Millennium Development Goals, she said that generating national revenue and improving incomes though destructive activities like logging, charcoal burning, settlement, and agricultural activities at the expense of forests often only exacerbated financial and economic challenges with the onset of natural disasters and loss of resources.  “The gods are not to blame,” she emphasized.  “Many of these disasters are man-made and preventable.”

She said the actions to be taken were well known:  there was a need to intensify global partnerships because the threats were global.  “We must stop undervaluing and taking for granted the environmental services forests and trees provide,” she cautioned, affirming that their resources were finite and must be brought into accounting systems to facilitate consideration of their full value.  There was also a need to strike a balance between immediate community needs and the common good of all who depended on forests that were sometimes long distances from where they lived.  “Governments have a responsibility to ensure that the ecological services provided by trees and forests are available for the common good of all communities, including future generations,” she stressed.

JAN MCALPINE, Director, United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, said forest history was, at its core, a story of the relationship between people and forests, adding that forests had never before been so high on the global agenda.  The planet’s most critical biodiversity and wildlife resided in forests, many of which were classified as protected areas.  One of the key challenges in managing those areas was ensuring that local and indigenous communities had access to sustainable forest resources, she said, underlining that the international community could not manage its forests by putting a fence around them.  “People are a critical part of this equation,” she added.

What had not yet been recognized was a “cross-sectoral, 360-degree perspective on forests,” she continued.  For example, tropical forests provided a vast natural pharmacy of medicinal plants worth an estimated $108 billion annually and accounting for about a quarter of modern medicines, she noted.   In that regard, she applauded President Paul Kagame of Rwanda for his “truly historic commitment to a border-to-border initiative” to integrate forests into the social, economic, and environmental landscape and urged Member States to contribute to that “amazing initiative”.

Nonetheless, the true value of the significance of forests for humanity would only be understood in the context of their impact on real people, she emphasized.  Human dependency on food, medicine, clean water and shelter were quantifiable values that would, therefore, make the most difference in a political commitment to the sustainable management of forests.  As the Forum launched the International Year celebration, a pledge to make the Year truly historic was critical, she said, quoting a common saying:  “One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade.”

YANN ARTHUS-BERTRAND, photographer and Chair of the non-governmental GoodPlanet Foundation, presented that organization’s work on a forest photo exhibition, as well as a book of photographs and text, saying they were available at the present High-level Segment.  He also screened the premiere of his film Forests for viewing by Forum members, saying additional material promoting sustainable forest management was available on the GoodPlanet Foundation’s website.

LISA SAMFORD, award-winning documentary filmmaker and a former executive director of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, said that stories spanning generations and recognizing no political boundaries linked humans inextricably to one another and the past with a promise to reach into the future.  The true power of storytelling through media lay in what it inspired people to feel and what actions those feelings provoked.  In that vein, each of the filmmakers and broadcasters who had submitted short films to the International Forest Film Festival — featuring some 165 projects from more than 30 countries — had done so in order to share a unique story with the world, she said.  The films were available to all for free public screenings, she said, inviting Forum members to attend the next Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in Wyoming, United States, in October as the International Year of Forests drew to a close.

MONIQUE BARBUT, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environmental Facility (GEF), welcomed the success of the just-concluded International Year of Biodiversity in making the value of biological diversity better known across the planet, and pledged to work closely with the Forum on Forests Secretariat to make the International Year for Forests a great success as well.  As the financial mechanism of the three Rio Conventions that emphasized the importance of forests, the GEF had the unique task of mobilizing resources and reporting back to the appropriate partners on their use by developing countries, she said.

The GEF had been the prime multilateral funding resource for forests throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, and remained the largest provider of grants to developing countries for forest management and conservation, she said, noting that there were now new mechanisms, and that the most exciting one had arisen from the REDD+ agenda.  However, some distortions had also emerged as resources for forests and REDD+ had grown, with two thirds of total forest funding from official development assistance (ODA) directed to only 10 countries, and declining or stagnant forest financing going to low forest cover countries, small island developing States and least developed countries.

She said the GEF wished to address those gaps head-on by supporting efforts by low forest cover countries to enhance their stocks, for example.  The programme planned in Rwanda, which aimed to transform land-use practices with a focus on restoration, could be a model, she said, adding that in addition to the GEF allocation, the programme could secure incentive funds under the Facility’s REDD+ window and from three climate change adaptation funds housed in the GEF.

In conclusion, she said the GEF was in complete harmony with the financing approach of the Forum on Forests, recognizing that forests were important to developing countries, irrespective of their past trajectories in the use of forest resources.  She expressed hope that the International Year would amplify that message, setting in motion a comprehensive approach to the conservation and management of forests — for biodiversity, for climate change mitigation, for the promotion of ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change, and for poverty reduction.

STEWART MAGINNIS, Director of Development and Environment, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), applauded Rwanda’s “ambitious initiative” in large-scale, country-wide landscape restoration, noting that it stemmed from the highest political levels.  IUCN had worked in collaboration with the Government of Rwanda and the Forum on Forests Secretariat to develop that initiative, and could mobilize the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration and other partners to establish a learning and information platform on large-scale forest landscape restoration.  That effort would draw on the expertise of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management, he said.

The IUCN would also make available advice on how to incentivize transformational changes in land use and land-use practices through policy and institutional frameworks, he continued, saying that programme required support from all elements of society, from local communities to regional authorities to the private sector.  The IUCN would also collaborate with the International Model Forest Network, Natural Resources Canada and other partners to initiate restoration activities in pilot landscapes.  Noting finally that Rwanda’s launch was the beginning of the world’s largest natural restoration initiative, he said the international community must seize the momentum to turn around the general outlook for the world’s forests.

FELIX FINKBEINER, a 13-year-old student from Germany, then took the podium alongside other children carrying paper trees, to offer an impassioned call to the world’s children for action in protecting forests.  “For us children, the forests are the future,” he said, noting that young people formed the majority of the world’s population and could make a difference.  The international community should undertake a campaign to plant a trillion trees, or about 150 trees for every person.  “Stop talking, and start planting,” he said, adding that it was high time for the world’s people — old and young, rich and poor — to work together.

Round Table 1

INGWALD GSCHWANDTL ( Austria) chaired Round Table 1, on “Forests for people”.

MOHAMED EL-ASHRY, Moderator of Round Table 1, Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and former CEO of the Global Environmental Facility said that besides providing the goods and services upon which people all over the world were dependent in varying degrees, forests were also the source of folklore and spirituality.  Accumulated forest-related knowledge was the fabric of societies, particularly in the case of indigenous and forest-dependent peoples, he said, pointing out that urban populations also benefited through raw materials, clean water, clean air, recreation and better quality of life.

Noting that the Forum’s current session focused on the core relationship between humankind and forests, he said that for forests to be truly sustainable, targeted policies were needed at the local, national, regional and international levels.  Good forest governance, tenure security, local participation, cross-sectoral and landscape-level policy frameworks, as well as increased funding and political commitment were priorities.  Hopefully, during the discussion and the International Year ahead, experts and authorities from all over would share lessons learned and best practices on sustainable forest management, as well as the ways and means to enhance the benefits of forests in people’s lives.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers enumerated the wide variety of benefits derived from forests, including the protection of water supplies, and against erosion, the prevention of floods, biological diversity, recreation, tourism, culture, scenery, sports and employment.  Forests were also a source of food and medicinal resources, and a hedge against climate change.  At the same time, speakers outlined threats to forests from over-logging, illegal logging, extraction of other resources, settlement and increased demand for agricultural land, some of which was carved out of forests even when the resulting land was not suitable for farming, which led to rapid erosion and degradation.

The Vice-Minister for Nature, Environment and Tourism of Mongolia said his country’s forests were also endangered by extensive mining activities that further dried out the soil.

The Director of Protection of Nature of Mauritania spoke of the fight against desertification and deforestation — which had resulted in an annual 2 per cent loss of forest cover — in the context of his country’s anti-poverty efforts.

Many speakers shared national experiences in sustainable forest management, with the Minister for Agriculture of Norway referring to an upcoming initiative to negotiate a legally-binding convention on forests for Europe.

The Minister for Forestry of Cameroon discussed the creation of a system for the certification of wood and management programmes, in cooperation with the European Union, as well as taxes that would ensure that benefits from resource extraction were returned to the people.

The Minister for Environment and Forestry of Turkey described his country’s success in expanding forest cover and its engagement with forest villagers in sustainable management.  He called for the integration of forest issues into the upcoming United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, to be held in Istanbul in May 2011, and offered to host the next Forum on Forests.  He also spoke of Turkey’s commitment to fighting forest fires and its willingness to cooperate with other countries in that area.

The Director of Forest Management of Israel thanked the international community for its help in fighting recent forest fires caused by drought exacerbated by climate change.  He also described the intense and innovative reforestation strategy devised for the country’s arid and semi-arid climate as well as the cultural importance of trees.

Other speakers described their initiatives on land-tenure reform, knowledge-sharing, equitable sharing of resources, public-private partnerships and the creation of legal frameworks for sustainable forestry.  The Director-General of Forests of India discussed programmes and legal reforms aimed at providing village organizations with control over fringe forests.

Many speakers also spoke of community forestry programmes, with the Vice-Minister for State Forestry of China describing a massive distribution of forest lands to farmers.

The Deputy State Secretary for Rural Development of Hungary similarly described the legal factors involved in the privatization of forested land.

The representative of Costa Rica spoke of payments to private landowners who nurtured forests and other policies that had resulted in the recovery of forest cover, but stressed the importance of international cooperation in maintaining the global environment that would allow sustainable forests to thrive.

The Minister for Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources of Zambia, among others, spoke of the importance of financial and technical support for the sustainable management programmes of developing countries, and expressed support for the establishment of a voluntary forest fund for that purpose.

Several speakers described national tree-planting initiatives.  The Forest Director General in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management of Austria recounted a gardener’s response when asked when the best time for planting a tree would be:  “The best time for planting a tree was 100 years ago.  But the second best time is right now.”

Round Table 2

ZAINOL ZAINUDDIN (Malaysia) chaired Round Table 2, on “Financing for forest-dependent communities”.

ANA MARIA SAMPAIO FERNANDES (Brazil), Moderator of Round Table 2, noted that forest-dependent communities were essential stakeholders and could make critical contributions to the implementation of sustainable forest management.  “At the same time, local communities are also the stakeholders with the most limited financial resources,” she said.  The round table’s main objectives, therefore, were to provide a platform for exchanging relevant information on financing for forest-dependent communities and to share the relevant knowledge and lessons learned.

Several main questions could guide the discussion, she said.  Which sources were most adequate for financing forest-dependent communities?  Which actors should be involved in channelling the funds?  How could the funds best be allocated?  What was the impact of the REDD+ programme on forest-dependent communities — was it an unprecedented opportunity or a potential threat to the rights of local communities?  Finally, what time line should be used when addressing financing for forest-dependent communities?

As she opened the floor delegations offered success stories from their own experiences with forest financing, and many called emphatically for the creation of a voluntary global forest fund.  They also called for new ways to demonstrate the immeasurable value of forests and to help forests garner the national and international funding they deserved.

JULIA MARTON-LEFEVRE, Director General, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said the value of forests could not always be easily quantified, citing in particular, the non-cash value of forests which frequently “remained invisible”.  Forests were “spectacularly undervalued”, she said, adding that, in fact, forest-related income was estimated to be the equivalent of more than $130 billion per year — more than the total official development assistance provided by all the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) combined.

The representative of the United States agreed, emphasizing that demonstrating the full value of forests was critical to ensuring that national forestry departments received both international and national funding.  Otherwise, “forest departments end up with the leftover change on the table”, she said.

The General Manager of the Forest National Corporation of Sudan said forests were the source of 70 per cent of his country’s energy and about 15 per cent of jobs for rural populations.  While Sudan had implemented a national plan for sustainable forest management and looked forward to adopting other ambitious measures, it was nonetheless important to take the special needs of least developed countries into account — with particular regard to financing for implementation, he said.

TAN SRI JOSEPH KURUP, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Environment of Malaysia, joined other delegates in noting the essential need to include forest development in national development plans.  Malaysia strongly upheld its commitment to bring development to local and forest-dependent communities, in particular through the creation of employment opportunities, skills and entrepreneurship training in forest-related small and medium-scale industries.  In addition, the private sector and multinational corporations were increasingly involved in supporting sustainable forest management programmes through corporate social responsibility programmes, he said.  Nonetheless, developing countries faced the challenges of insufficient financial resources and the lack of environmentally sound technologies, he said, echoing calls by other delegations that the proposed voluntary global forest fund be considered at the Forum’s tenth session in 2013.

Also speaking were representatives of the Central African Republic, Colombia, Botswana, Paraguay, Guatemala, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Nepal, and Bolivia.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.