Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks at the opening of the Eleventh Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests, in New York today:
I am honoured to address this session of the United Nations Forum on Forests. And I welcome you warmly to New York and to the United Nations.
Over the next two weeks, you have the formidable task of creating a strengthened International Arrangement on Forests. You are to balance ambitious vision with practical structure, design and function. And you are to catalyse action on the ground, so sorely needed in today’s world.
Now is the time to gather in order to shape the future of the world’s forests, as the President so eloquently has elaborated upon. As we meet, the international community is working towards the adoption in September of a universal and transformative post-2015 agenda and of a set of sustainable development goals.
The post-2015 agenda calls on us to leave no one behind. Some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, including some 60 million indigenous people rely on forests for their subsistence and survival.
The sustainable management of forests — in partnership with those who live in the forest regions — will be critical for meeting our ambition to eradicate poverty in all its forms.
This December, in Paris, world leaders have committed to adopt a universal and meaningful climate change agreement. The science is clear. We cannot limit the increase in global temperature to below 2°C without serious efforts on forest preservation.
In shaping the International Arrangement on Forests beyond 2015, it will be important to define ways in which the future arrangement will advance forest-related Sustainable Development Goals and targets. We must at the same time address the challenges of poverty eradication and climate change.
Integrating these elements is essential to make the future international arrangement on forests more relevant and more effective.
At least 1.6 billion people depend to some degree on forests for their food, fuel, shelter and income needs. Three fourths of fresh water comes from forested catchments, as many of know and are aware. Forests build resilience. Forests provide renewable energy. And forests offer effective and cost-competitive natural carbon capture and storage.
A meaningful decision on strengthening the International Arrangement on Forests will put us on a path towards a greener economy and a more equitable and sustainable future for all.
This Forum is the only universal, intergovernmental policy forum on all areas and issues related to forests. Realizing the full potential of the future arrangement will require all of us to play a role. We must all work to mobilize tangible and coordinated support, across sectors, and at all levels.
To deliver on our shared commitment to forests, we will need to be equally ambitious on financing and means of implementation. In July this year, world leaders will meet in Addis Ababa to agree on a financing framework for the future development agenda. The Addis accord should help put us on a path to meet forest financing needs.
We also need to mainstream the forest sector into sustainable development at the global, regional, national and local levels. We need to also mainstream across sectors — including agriculture, energy and transportation.
We will need governance systems that address destructive practices, and of course, illegal deforestation. There is also a role, unfortunately, on organized crime, as you know.
We need to have broad participation of indigenous and local communities, many of whom possess important traditional forest-related knowledge. I would particularly underline the role of women — the role of women in particular as forest managers, stewards and agents of change must be properly recognized. We must ensure their participation in decision-making at all levels.
We need equitable sharing of benefits from forests and forest products. We also need to ensure payments for forest ecosystem services, not rewarded, not remunerated by markets.
A stronger International Arrangement on Forests will provide a road map to meet these challenges, so that the world’s forest resources can meet people’s needs for forest products and services — now and in the future.
Let us, with the work on this forum, this very important forum, and your work, let us build on this year’s unique opportunity and specific momentum. 2015 is a crucial year for development and life in dignity for all. Let us show the international community that it is time to get serious about forests. This pursuit is fundamentally about respect for everything living and for the necessary balance between man and nature.