Participants Hail Adoption of Strategic Plan for Forests as Forum Opens Twelfth Session

ENV/DEV/1781
1 May 2017
Twelfth Session, 2nd & 3rd Meetings* (AM & PM)

Participants Hail Adoption of Strategic Plan for Forests as Forum Opens Twelfth Session

Intimate Link of Woodlands to 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Stressed

Covering 30 per cent of the earth’s land surface and providing critical food security, energy and livelihoods for some 1.6 billion people, forests were intimately linked to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and their responsible management crucial to humanity’s future, speakers underlined today, as the United Nations Forum on Forests opened its twelfth session.

Environment Ministers, senior forestry officials and other Government representatives said the Forum — convening in the wake of the General Assembly’s adoption of the first-ever United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests (2017-2030) — was entering a new phase in which it stood poised to become the authoritative United Nations voice on sustainable forest management.  Many also welcomed its new, annual meeting structure and its emphasis on smaller, more focused discussions tackling both policy and technical issues.

Opening the meeting, General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) declared:  “Let us make no mistake on this matter — the health of the world’s forests is fundamental to humanity’s place on this planet.”  The session came at a critical time for global efforts to protect the health of its forests, he said, noting that forests helped to regulate climate, prevent land degradation and reduce the risk of floods, landslides and avalanches, while also playing a critical role in staving off the worst effects of climate change.  However, decades of unsustainable land use had destroyed, degraded and depleted enormous quantities of the earth’s natural forests, he said, pointing out that some 13 million hectares were lost every year.

Peter Besseau (Canada), Chair of the Forum’s twelfth session, noted that the Strategic Plan adopted by the Assembly last week was the first of its kind in the United Nations system.  The Forum must now move to implement that ambitious framework’s 6 Global Forest Goals and 26 associated targets, he said, emphasizing their link to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2010 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, among other international agreements.

Marie Chatardová, (Czech Republic), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that, since its establishment in 2000, the Forum had been indispensable as the only intergovernmental policy body in the United Nations that discussed all aspects of forests.  Noting that the Council’s current theme was related to the eradication of poverty through sustainable development, she said the 2030 Agenda reflected the importance of sustainably managed forests, and the Council would count on it to galvanize support in that regard.

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, emphasized that “investing in forests represents an investment in people and their livelihoods”, especially the rural poor, youth and women.  Recalling that a number of Sustainable Development Goals and targets referred to forests — notably Goal 6 on ensuring universal access to water and sanitation and Goal 15 on sustainable forest management, combating desertification, reversing land degradation and halting biodiversity loss, he said the Forum had elevated the significance of sustainable forest management to the highest level, culminating in the Assembly’s adoption of the Strategic Plan.

Manoel Sobral Filho, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, said forests had long provided vital resources to support the development and prosperity of human populations, and when sustainably managed could provide pathways out of poverty for millions of people.  Outlining several key elements of the new Strategic Plan, he said it sought to increase forest area globally by 3 per cent — or 120 million hectares — and to end extreme poverty for all forest-dependent people by 2030.  It also established a system of voluntary national contributions as the framework for countries to express their commitments, taking their national circumstances and capacities into account, he added.

As the Forum began its general discussion, participants outlined a number of national strategies aimed at halting and reversing the loss of forest cover, suggesting incentives to encourage sustainable agro-tourism, or the expansion of alternative livelihoods for forest-dependent communities.  Highlighting the voluntary nature of the Strategic Plan’s six Global Forest Goals, some speakers urged countries to implement the Plan according to their own unique circumstances, capacities and national priorities, while others emphasized the need to support the forest-related efforts of developing countries by scaling up funding.

“Real change only happens when we get out of our comfort zones and start doing things differently,” declared Canada’s representative.  “There is a growing recognition that if we coordinate and align our actions, the solutions can be real and long-lasting.”

Ecuador’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said forests were crucial for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth.  “The adequate and timely implementation of the [Strategic Plan] is fundamental for developing countries.”

Israel’s representative, meanwhile, said that, although his country was a small State with limited natural resources and low average rainfall, it had become a laboratory for innovative forestry with extensive knowledge of combating desertification.  In addition, its development cooperation agency had worked across the globe to share its knowledge of agriculture, forestry and food security.

Among the particular types of forests spotlighted today were mangroves, ubiquitous on the coastlines of tropical regions around the world.  Fiji’s representative said they were crucial to sustaining the fragile ecosystems of small island developing States, and to supporting climate resilience.  Fiji was pursuing a tree-planting programme, but its efforts were hampered by the lack of resources.

At the meeting’s outset, Mr. Fihlo presented a note by the Secretariat on the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests (document E/CN.18/2017/2), saying it described the process leading up to adoption and outlined its priorities.  In particular, the Plan’s endorsement by both the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly would help significantly in catalysing forest-related action throughout the United Nations system.

The Forum held a panel discussion this afternoon on the contributions of Collaborative Partnership on Forests members, United Nations partners and stakeholders to implementation of the Strategic Plan for Forests.

In other business today, the Forum elected Baudelaire Ndong Ella (Gabon) Vice-Chair of the twelfth session, by acclamation.  He joined Clarissa Souza Della Nina (Brazil), Wu Zhimin (China) and Tomas Krejzar (Czech Republic), elected on 25 April 2016, as Vice-Chairs.  Mr. Krejzar was also appointed Rapporteur.

The Forum also approved its organization of work, on the understanding that necessary adjustments might be made during the session.

Also speaking were representatives of Thailand, Peru, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, Romania, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Morocco, Colombia, Australia, Chile, China, Viet Nam, Argentina, Panama, Nigeria (for the African Group), Switzerland, Senegal, Niger, South Africa, Nepal, Belarus, Uruguay, China (for the Montreal Protocol Group), Ghana and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.  The Forum also heard from speakers representing the European Union delegation, Association of South-East Asian Nations, International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the farmers and small forest landowners major group.

The United Nations Forum on Forests will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 2 May, to continue its work.

Opening Remarks

PETER BESSEAU (Canada), Chair of the twelfth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests, recalled that the body had embarked formally on a new phase of its development by adopting the Strategic Plan on Forests — its first such document and the first in the United Nations system.  The landmark global plan translated the aspirations of the International Arrangement on Forest into an actionable plan to guide its work for the next 13 years, he said.  The Forum must now move to implement the Strategic Plan’s six Global Forest Goals and 26 associated targets, which built on the solid foundation laid out by the United Nations Forest Instrument’s four Global Objectives on Forests.

He went on to describe the Strategic Plan as “even more ambitious”, saying it intended to make its own contribution to progress on other forest-related commitments and targets, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Paris Agreement on climate change.  “The Global Forest Goals reflect the way the Forum is transforming its work to more effectively address the challenges facing forests and the lives of the people who depend on them.”  He urged all countries and stakeholders to tackle the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation; balance economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability; and improve governance in order to integrate forest issues, as per the guidance from the Quadrennial Programme of Work.

Outlining the key elements planned for the Forum’s first annual session — which would include a number of interactive dialogues and panel sessions — he said it was crucial that it highlight the significant contributions of sustainably managed forests to human life and to the planet.  Topics for discussion over the coming week would include “means of implementation”, guidelines for the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network and ways in which to contribute to the work of the Economic and Social Council’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, he said, noting that the session was intended to discuss a smaller, more focused number of technical issues than it had done in its previous format.

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said the present session came at a critical time for global efforts to protect the health of its forests.  “Let us make no mistake on this matter — the health of the world’s forests is fundamental to humanity’s place on this planet,” he emphasized, noting that forests were home to 80 per cent of the earth’s land-based animal, plant and insect species.  Together, they regulated climate, prevented land degradation, reduced the risk of floods, landslides and avalanches, and protected people from droughts and dust storms.  Forests also played a critical role in staving off the worst impacts of climate change, serving as the world’s second-largest storehouse of carbon, he said.  Indeed, the world’s tropical forests alone retained a quarter trillion tons of carbon in biomass.

At the same time, he stressed, an estimated 1.6 billion people — 25 per cent of the global population — depended on forests for food security and nutrition, income and livelihoods, and as a source of energy, fuel and other natural resources.  That number included some 70 million indigenous people who had long been stewards of those lands, and for whom forests represented a source of sustenance, shelter, spiritual tradition and cultural identity.  “Decades of unsustainable land use and management practices have destroyed, degraded and depleted enormous quantities of the planet’s natural forests,” he said, pointing out that 13 million hectares were lost every year.

While there were many reasons for deforestation – including population growth and the resulting agricultural demand, mining activities and the effects of air, land and water pollution — they were all driven largely by human activity.  Faced with the scale of those challenges, the Assembly had adopted the first-ever United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests (2017-2030) last week, he said, explaining that it provided a global framework for the sustainable management of all forests.  Such efforts should be taken as part of a comprehensive approach to implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and other global commitments, he said, emphasizing that forest commitments must promote investment in education campaigns on the importance of forests and on the need to end destructive patterns of human behaviour.

Sustainable forest and land management must be included in national development planning and budgetary processes, he stressed, calling for the strengthening of innovative partnerships among Governments, civil society, landowners, indigenous peoples, the private sector and others.  Non-forest-based economic and social opportunities should be provided for forest-dependent communities, and the power of science, technology and innovation should be harnessed to catalyse anti-deforestation action.  Noting the existence of important initiatives in that regard — including the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests — he recalled that the latter called for the participation of Governments and partners along the entire length of the forest-product supply chain.  To date, the Partnership had already seen more than 400 companies over 700 commitments to reducing deforestation.

MARIE CHATARDOVÁ (Czech Republic), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that, since its establishment in 2000, the Forum had been indispensable as the only intergovernmental policy body in the United Nations that discussed all aspects of forests.  It offered advice and recommendations to States and to the United Nations alike, including through collaborative partnerships on forests.  Noting that relations between the Council and the Forum should be complementary and mutually supportive, she said the Council had carried out reforms to align its own work and that of its subsidiary bodies with the main Economic and Social Council theme with the goal of connecting United Nations policy work with the deliberations of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

Citing the Economic and Social Council theme “eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions through promoting sustainable development, expanding opportunities and addressing related challenges”, she said the 2030 Agenda reflected the importance of sustainably managed forests, and the Council counted on the Forum to galvanize support, and welcomed the Forum’s having made a priority of preparing its contribution to the High-level Political Forum, in accordance with the quadrennial comprehensive policy review.  The Forum would inform the High-level Political Forum’s deliberations, sending a strong signal about effective ways in which to eradicate poverty, especially in relation to issues of food security, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, she said.

WU HONGBO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, emphasized the significant role of forests in reducing the risk of floods, drought and other extreme events, as well as in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.  “Investing in forests represents an investment in people and their livelihoods,” especially the rural poor, youth and women, he added.  Indeed, 1.6 billion people depended on forests for their livelihoods, shelter, food, jobs and security.  Significant forest-related agreements had been made under the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement, concerning most notably greater political commitment, smart policies, effective governance, innovative partnerships and funding.  Furthermore, a number of Sustainable Development Goals and targets referred to forests — notably Goals 6 and 15 and their targets 6.6, 15.1, 15.2 and 15.3.  Over the last two years, the Forum had elevated the significance of sustainable forest management to the highest level, having taken its first decisive step in May 2015 with its resolution outlining the International Agreement on Forests.  Among other things, that instrument called for substantive contributions from the Forum to the High-level Political Forum in its review of the 2030 Agenda’s implementation, he said.

“In a remarkable development”, he continued, after two years of consultations, the Forum had adopted the first ever United Nations Strategic Plan on Forests for 2017-2030, which had subsequently been adopted by both the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly in a demonstration of the highest political support for the Plan’s 6 Global Forest Goals and 26 targets, as well as the voluntary national contributions towards their attainment.  “This Plan constitutes an effective global framework for action,” he said, offering a road map to guide forest contributions to the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement and other internationally agreed commitments.  He urged the Forum to collaborate with all partners — both inside and outside the United Nations.  Underlining the Forum’s important role in implementing the 2030 Agenda, he said its issues were also vital to realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Implementation of the Strategic Plan was the main element that would ensure success, and to that end, “let us work together to make history and achieve the agreed goals and targets”, he asserted, emphasizing that his Department “will spare no efforts to assist you in this task”.

MANOEL SOBRAL FILHO, Director, United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, said forests had provided vital resources to support the development and prosperity of human populations for time immemorial, describing them as “dynamic ecosystems” shaped by both natural and human influences.  When sustainably managed, they provided essential goods and services for the whole world, and pathways out of poverty for millions.  The key question hinged on how forests could support international efforts to eradicate poverty.

He went on to note that the first United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017—2030 stated that future needs would only be met through actions taken today in order to ensure the sustainable management of forests, whether natural, semi-natural or planted.  It set out a shared global vision and mission, as well as 6 Global Forest Goals and 26 associated targets, he said, adding that they included increasing forest area globally by 3 per cent — or 120 million hectares — and ending extreme poverty for all forest-dependent people by 2030.

The Goals also covered efforts to combat climate change, increasing protected forest areas, mobilizing financing, inspiring innovation, promoting governance and enhancing cooperation, he said.  Success would depend entirely on voluntary actions by countries, partners and stakeholders at all levels.  The concept of voluntary national contributions was enshrined in the Plan as the framework for countries to express their commitments, taking national circumstances and capacities into account, he said.

The last two years had seen unprecedented decision-making by the Forum to define a vision for forests in 2030, he continued.  Many drivers of deforestation favoured sectors generating more rapid financial returns, such as agriculture, energy, mining and urban development, he said, noting that they also drove poverty.  The Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network aimed to bridge the financing needs of countries and such global funding sources as the Global Environment Facility and the Green Climate Fund.  “We are embarking on a new structure and new modus operandi for the Forum,” he said, adding that the twelfth session would focus on technical issues and strategies for implementing the Strategic Plan.

Statements

SANTIAGO GARCÍA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said forests were crucial for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth and for humanity to live in harmony with nature.  The Strategic Plan’s 6 Global Forest Goals and 26 targets, though voluntary in nature, were universal, representing both a challenge and a commitment by all Member States and other relevant stakeholders, he emphasized.  Goal 4 on mobilizing new resources for sustainable forest management was particularly important and could entail increasing official development assistance (ODA).

“The adequate and timely implementation of the [Strategic Plan] is fundamental for developing countries,” he continued.  Highlighting the important question of financing, as well as the major gaps in the allocation of relevant resources, he said it was also crucial to foster and capitalize on existing, new and emerging financial opportunities to facilitate mechanisms that would help developing countries access funds and disseminate best practices on sustainable forest management.  Such activities could encompass the transfer, dissemination and diffusion of technology to those countries, he added.

WIJARN SIMACHAYA, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand, associated himself with the Group of 77 and China.  Outlining his country’s new, concrete policy aimed at protecting the wise use of forest resources, emphasized human responsibility to support conservation and protection of the environment, natural resources, biological diversity and ecosystems.  Thailand’s long-term strategic sustainable development plan accorded high priority to conserving the integrity of forest ecosystems, promoting reforestation and conserving biodiversity, with the goal of increasing its forest cover by 40 per cent and halting deforestation by 2030.  Pointing to his country’s long history of community-based forest management — including its encouragement of local communities to establish their own management programmes — he stressed the importance of sharing knowledge and the sharing the benefits of forest resources equally.  The concerted efforts of Forum members, and strong collaboration among them, were critical to reversing the trend of global forest loss, he said, noting that the current session’s efforts would contribute to the in-depth review of Sustainable Development Goal 15 on the sustainable use of forests and other territorial ecosystems.

JOHN LEIGH VETTER, Executive Director, National Forest and Wild Fauna Services, Peru, associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, saying his country’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals was promoted through a national strategy for inclusive development.  National forest, wildlife, the national strategy for forests and climate change, as well the national forest law all incorporated the sustainable use of forest resources in order to attain a socioeconomic balance.  The national sustainable forest management programme was inclusive and competitive, he said.  The Government would present its national voluntary report on the Sustainable Development Goals to the High-level Political Forum in July, he said, adding that it would also evaluate the possibility of communicating its national voluntary contributions on forests in the context of commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

JOHANNES GUANIN of the non-governmental organization JNF-KKL, spoke on behalf of Israel, saying that, as a small State with limited natural resources and low average rainfall, his country faced such challenges as soil erosion and desertification.  The official afforestation administration had planted more than 240 million trees covering over 250,000 acres, as well as regulations to control grazing and ensure effective water management, he said.  Thanks to those efforts, Israel counted itself among the only countries to have entered the twenty-first century enjoying a net gain in the number of its trees.  “Israel has always recognized the value of well-managed forests,” he said, adding that it had become a laboratory for innovative forestry with extensive knowledge of fighting desertification, afforestation in semi-arid regions and ecological forest services.  Israel’s forests provided services to surrounding communities and ecological systems, serving as the “green lungs” of a densely populated country, he said, adding that MASHAV, Israel’s development cooperation agency, worked around the world to share its know-how in agriculture, forestry and food security.

ESHAGH AL-HABIB (Iran) said efforts to implement the Strategic Plan and the 2030 Agenda should be more integrated.  Many drivers of deforestation were rooted in wider social and economic issues, including challenges related to reducing poverty, urban development, unsustainable production and consumption, and climate change.  To reduce fragmentation and address persistent deforestation, forest-related international organizations, institutions and instruments must enhance coordination, with the United Nations playing a critical role, he emphasized.  While each country bore primary responsibility for its own sustainable forest management, many developing countries still required assistance to realize the goals and targets of the Strategic Plan for Forests, lacking technology, trade and access to financial resources.  Iran was preparing its first voluntary national review and was ready to share its experience, successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the 2030 Agenda’s implementation, he said.

Mr. JUSTIANO (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the Strategic Plan would further strengthen forest-related policies of the United Nations and its efforts to implement the relevant Sustainable Development Goals.  Welcoming the national voluntary contributions as its implementation mechanism, he said his country was presently engaged in a multistakeholder process and planned to submit its contribution at the Forum’s next session.  Calling for strong and inclusive global partnerships underpinned by sufficient resources, technology and capacity, he also emphasized the need to improve coherence among existing forest-related instruments of the United Nations.

MARC-ANDRÉ BLANCHARD (Canada) declared:  “Real change only happens when we get out of our comfort zones and start doing things differently.”  In the context of forests, that could mean talking to other land-use sectors so as to develop collective solutions to forest degradation, or working with the private sector and charitable foundations interested in being part of the solution to challenges such as climate change.  “There is a growing recognition that if we coordinate and align our actions, the solutions can be real and long-lasting,” he said.  Since the Forum’s January working group and special session, there had been ongoing efforts to ensure its ability to report on its contributions to the global forest dialogue, and to align itself more closely and effectively with the Sustainable Development Goals.  “This Forum is well-placed to be the world’s authoritative voice on sustainable forest management,” he said, adding:  “As in forestry, we will need to practise ‘adaptive management’ and adjust as we go.”

DATO' SRI AZIZAN BIN AHMAD, Secretary General, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Malaysia, associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, emphasized that the Strategic Plan must be practical in terms of implementation, since it could increase the responsibility of States for enhancing forest services.  As a developing country, Malaysia sought to balance economic development with conservation efforts, he said, recalling that its exports of timber and timber products in 2016 had amounted to $5.5 billion.  The forestry and timber sectors provided jobs for more than 200,000 people, he added.  Malaysia aspired to ensure that at least 50 per cent of its land area was under forest and tree cover, he said, citing the Government’s pledge that by 2025, at least 20 per cent of Malaysia’s terrestrial areas and inland waters would be conserved through a representative system of protected areas.  Citing also the forest certification initiative, forest law and best agricultural practices, he emphasized the importance of involving local communities, non-governmental groups and civil society in national greening campaigns and other such programmes.

ISTRATE ȘTEȚCO, Secretary of State of Romania, associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union delegation, expressed his country’s commitment to national and global goals, having taken steps to address the challenge of expanding forest vegetation and to establish carbon sequestration.  Due to the restitution of forest land to former owners since 1991, Romania faced additional challenges, including illegal logging, and had created an electronic platform for monitoring and verifying timber transfers, he said.  The National Forest Authority was applying a new measure to increase transparency in wood-harvesting activities, and penalties for such offenses had been increased.  All States should contribute to the development of a legal framework and institutional capacity to enable good governance and implementation of forest policy, he emphasized.

FRED SARUFA, Papua New Guinea, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country possessed the world’s third-largest primary tropical rainforests, and viewed the Strategic Plan as the culmination of a 25-year process.  On implementation, he said the Government appreciated the Forum’s role as facilitator of financial resources, including from the Global Climate Fund, which had benefitted a number of countries.  The United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2018-2022 incorporated forestry, he noted, adding that it aligned with Papua New Guinea’s national development priorities, and supported its efforts to realize the Sustainable Development Goals.  He also thanked Japan, Australia and the European Union for the technical and financial assistance they had extended to complement national efforts to enhance sustainable forest management, he said, also welcoming the strategic global approach to ensuring the sustainable management of forest resources.

ADAM VAN OPZEELAND (New Zealand) said the many new and emerging plans and agendas in the forests arena — led by the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals — offered a refreshed, integrated and forward-thinking international platform for global action.  “This Strategic Plan recognizes the importance of the sustainable management of all types of forests for global economic, social, environmental and spiritual health and prosperity for peoples worldwide,” he said.  Citing current challenges in protecting and valuing forests, and ensuring they could supply an increasing flow of goods and services to meet the demands of a growing global population, he said the new Strategic Plan could galvanize the conversion of ambition into effective action.

CHERKI DRAIS (Morocco) said the design of all United Nations commitments relating to sustainable forest management must be coupled with consistency in their implementation.  The Strategic Plan in particular should take into account relevant national efforts already under way, he emphasized, calling in that regard, for the establishment of a “frame of reference” for the Global Forest Goals, as well as for efforts to help countries identify gaps where they needed support.

Ms. CARVAJAL (Colombia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the Strategic Plan’s adoption, noting that her country possessed 10 per cent of known forest species and was among 17 countries with the highest levels of biodiversity.  Colombia was South America’s third-largest country by forest coverage, she said, adding that private-public partnerships were working to ensure that its forests and forest products were used in accordance with national legislation.  The national monitoring strategy for forest management took a holistic approach to forests, which covered 51 million hectares, she said, noting that 42 million hectares of that comprised natural forests.

EMMA HATCHER (Australia), describing her country’s long history of sustainable forest management, said it had had 123 million hectares of native forests as of 2013, of which 39 million were protected for biodiversity conservation.  Australia’s forest sector was highly productive, providing $22.7 billion in economic turnover and employing 66,000 people.  Recognizing illegal logging and landscape degradation as significant challenges, Australia helped others build capacity and tackle issues from the grass-roots level, she said, citing the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Partnership in that regard.  Australia had also taken a strong stance against illegally logged timber, having passed the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act in 2012, she said.

NANCY CESPEDES (Chile), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said the new “action-oriented” Strategic Plan made it possible for countries to implement sustainable forest management programmes aligned with their own national specificities.  She called for political and financial commitment at all levels.  Describing her country’s ongoing efforts to modernize its national forest oversight instruments and tackle challenges relating to forest fires, water, the preservation of nature and climate change, she said the National Biodiversity and Protected Areas bill was currently before Parliament.

MA GUANGREN (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, emphasized the need to mobilize financing from all sources and at all levels.  Monitoring, assessment and reporting mechanisms should be improved, he said.  China planned to submit its Voluntary National Contribution in due course, he said, announcing his country’s intention to provide $350,000 to the Trust Fund during the course of 2017.

NGUYEN BA NGAI (Viet Nam), recognizing the increasing part played by forests in national economic development, said they also played a vital climate role by absorbing carbon.  In recent years, Viet Nam’s forests had received increasing attention from the National Assembly and local communities alike, he noted.  Viet Nam exported timber and forest products amounting to $7 billion in annual revenue, which helped to improve the livelihoods of rural people, he said.  The Government had implemented forest service policies since 2009 and had enjoyed major achievements, among them, recognition as a pioneers by the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the Role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Enhancement of Forest Carbon Stocks in Developing Countries (REDD+).  He called on the Forum and on the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network to mobilize new and additional financial resources, including by enhancing coherence and coordination among funding mechanisms and promoting the use of existing resources.

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union delegation, emphasized the vital role of forests in tackling global challenges, noting with concern that deforestation remained a problem and that forests were still under pressure.  The Strategic Plan must foster the integrated implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said, adding that, in that context, the European Union advocated mutually supportive implementation of the Global Forest Goals.

She called for the strengthening of cooperation among all actors, especially the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, to realize the Strategic Plan’s vision, recommending the inclusion of more private sector actors.  All stakeholders must participate so that the Forum could make its own contribution to the High-level Political Forum, she said, while cautioning that although monitoring, assessment and reporting were crucial to progress, there was need to avoid an additional reporting burden.

SOUSATH SAYAKOUMMANE, speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), welcomed the Strategic Plan and reiterated the regional bloc’s full commitment to sustainable forest management.  Millions in the region depended on forests for food, livelihoods and water, he noted, emphasizing that the post-2015 goal for the forest sector was to enhance sustainable forest management.

Encouraging commitment to financing for sustainable forest management, he cited the Strategic Plan of Action for ASEAN Cooperation on Forestry 2016-2025.  ASEAN had taken coordinated action to combat illegal logging and associated trade, as well as to strengthen law enforcement and governance.  He acknowledged the effects of climate change on energy, food and water security, as well as on biodiversity, stressing its disproportionate impacts on women and children.  Through the Strategic Plan of Action, ASEAN was working to implement REDD+ initiatives across all its member countries, he said, noting that four of them had submitted forest reference levels.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, described national efforts to evaluate and preserve his country’s native forests.  Argentina had adopted a land-use law that enhanced recognition of the value of forests and had established a national fund for that purpose.  The Government had reduced annual forest loss by about 15 per cent as a result of such measures, he said, outlining other relevant programmes, including a native community forestry project created to combat poverty in the country’s north.  Moreover, Argentina was now working to identify balanced production models that would create jobs, promote social well-being and maintain ecosystems and native forests.  In addition, the country was making progress on a deforestation early warning system, he said.

Mr. SOLIS (Panama) associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, saying that his country’s “protect, monitor and preserve” operation had led to the seizure of thousands of acres of forest being used illegally by loggers.  The country had been struggling with a sharp decrease in forest cover, and the Government was therefore seeking new, community-based wood-production models.  It had proposed a new forest incentives law establishing a revolving $50 million annual fund to provide direct, non-repayable grants for sustainable forestry projects, he said.  Additionally, a decree establishing “legal personality” for grass-roots organizations was aimed at ensuring that more tourist licences were granted to protected areas in order to promote agro-tourism and get citizens involved in sustainable forest management.

T.M. OSAKUADE (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, noted the role of forest policy in his country’s economy, in alleviating poverty, food and water security, and in the livelihoods of local communities.  The African Group was aware of the important role of sustainable forest management in the provision of goods and services, as well as in climate change adaption and mitigation.  Welcoming the Strategic Plan as a road map for the realization of national and global forest goals, he emphasized that its implementation was the responsibility of all actors at all levels.

Speaking in his national capacity, he welcomed the recognition by the United Nations of his country’s former Environment Minister — Amina J Mohammed, now Deputy Secretary-General — saying she had provided a new dimension to the private sector’s involvement in forest matters.  The private sector’s impact had helped Nigeria to mobilize resources for forestry and to create awareness of the need for collective action, he said.

SYBILLE VERMONT (Switzerland) welcomed the Assembly’s adoption of the Strategic Plan last week, saying the timing was favourable to the Forum becoming the authoritative voice on forests.  Switzerland supported sustainable forest management, enhanced multistakeholder processes and moving from the national to the community level in addressing sustainable forest management.  In the medium-term, the Forum should hear from only one country reporting on forests, which would lighten its burden, she said.  Noting that 2017 was a budget year, she said the Forum would need to provide information on programme budget implications and requested that the Secretariat provide details by 3 May, so that Member States could review them.

YOUSSOUPH DIALLO (Senegal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said it was important to ensure technical support for forest projects, including those funded by the Green Climate Fund.  Welcoming the financing mechanism as an important pillar for implementing the Strategic Plan, he said that he expected it would bring opportunities for financing green technologies.  The quadrennial comprehensive policy review should focus on countries with fragile ecosystems that faced challenges relating to mining, illegal forest exploitation and illicit trading in timber, which often led countries to invest in vast and expensive policing programmes, rather than directing those resources towards conserving biodiversity.  Outlining national initiatives, he said Senegal had implemented its second project for managing fuel resources as well as the Great Green Wall initiative.

SOUMANA ADAMOU (Niger), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his country had created an environment favourable to all local stakeholders wishing to participate in forest management.  Furthermore, sustainable land management had been integrated into all national development policy documents.  He emphasized the Global Forests Financing Facilitation Network’s importance in building capacity and support for States, and in elaborating relevant forest projects intended to improve access to funding.

MOSHIBUDI RAMPEDI (South Africa), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country was actively involved in the various processes shaping the 2030 Agenda’s path.  Domestically, South Africa’s own national development plan and related strategies, such as the Agriculture Action Plan, reflected its commitment both to sustainable development and to improving the lives of its people, especially the rural poor and marginalized.  In implementing the new Strategic Plan on Forests, Member States should take their unique national circumstances, policy priorities and conditions into account, and inform the Forum if they were able to make contributions.  She urged the various bodies, organizations and specialized agencies of the United Nations to collaborate on their forest-related activities.

Mr. KANDEL (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, described the Strategic Plan as a pathway for the world to reverse the current trend towards deforestation and forest degradation.  Nepal’s 2015 Forest Policy envisioned a sustainable, community-based forest management model, in with the Strategic Plan, he said, adding that more than 30,000 local communities were actively involved in such activities and Nepal had already increased its forest cover from 40 per cent to 45 per cent.  However, the Strategic Plan’s success would ultimately require adequate resourcing and capacity-building, he emphasized, pointing out that it could also serve as a tool for helping countries resolve issues related to both poverty and fragility.

Mr. YUREVICH (Belarus) said half of his country’s territory was covered by forests, lakes and bogs.  Indeed, forestry was the second-largest sector after agriculture, and its development was overseen by the President.  For years, the sector had complied with sustainable forestry management, and thanks to a targeted policy, the area under forest cover was increasing, he said.  Belarus had expanded its protective forests, half of which also performed eco-social, water-protective and other environmental services.  Welcoming the Strategic Plan, he emphasized that its implementation would be complemented by Belarus’ own forestry development plans, which had resulted in a positive trend of main forest indicators.  In 2015, Belarus had devised a national forestry plan extending through 2030, he said.

PEDRO SOUST (Uruguay) described his country’s progress on adaptation to and mitigation of the effects of climate change, emphasizing that forest cover had increased, as also seen in Chile and Costa Rica.  Uruguay had improved its sustainable management of forests, with assistance from Germany, the Network and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), he said, noting that it had also tackled deforestation.

OSEA NAIQAMU (Fiji), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said forests played a crucial role in sustaining the fragile ecosystems native to small island developing States such as his own.  Forests, especially mangrove forests, were also critical to supporting climate resilience, he said, expressing support for the recently adopted Bali Call to Action for Sustainable Mangrove Ecosystems.  Emphasizing the importance of the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility and other financing structures in helping small island developing States successfully manage various types of forests, he said Fiji was currently working on a tree-planting programme aimed at expanding its forest cover by some 500 hectares annually, and had put a carbon emission reduction strategy in place through a “Fiji REDD+” project, he said.  Such efforts notwithstanding, Fiji’s capacity — like that of many other small island developing States — was hampered by lack of access to resources, he said, stressing that more could be achieved with the support of development partners.

ZHANG Songdan (China), speaking on behalf of 12 States members of the Montreal Process for the Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests, said the grouping was committed to supporting the sustainable management of all forests by making “utmost use” of the Montreal Process criteria and indicators.  Among other things, they sought to improve open and transparent monitoring, assessment and reporting on sustainable forest management, build knowledge about forests, strengthen cooperation among the relevant experts and enhance cooperation with other forest-related organizations.

BRUCE KOFI BANOENG-YAKUBO (Ghana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, urged all Member States to support the Strategic Plan as a way to ensure that the global forest sector maintained a high profile in the Sustainable Development Goals.  Ghana had launched a forest and wildlife policy in 2012, and a forestry development master plan in 2016 that would extend until 2036.  Furthermore, Ghana was implementing the REDD+ strategy, launched in 2016 with funding from the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, and had developed a forest plantation strategy to promote regeneration and restoration until 2040.

BOUNSOUANE PHONGPHICHITH, Director for Planning and Cooperation Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said his country required a large amount of water to support agricultural production, and forests played a significant role as watersheds, with most rural people relying heavily on them.  The Forest Strategy 2020 and forest law classified forests into three categories — production forests, conservation forests and protection forests — and several programmes were, therefore, in place for participatory sustainable management, regeneration and village forest development, among other efforts.  Noting that 69 per cent of his country’s territory was covered by forests, he called on the United Nations, development partners and international organizations to support sustainable forest management in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

LI ZHIYONG, International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, said his organization was willing to collaborate with the Forum and Collaborative Partnership on Forests to fight poverty, address climate change and restore the landscape.  Expressing expressed hope that the Network’s experience would help to improve policies and encourage relevant actions, he said it had worked with 42 Member States and others to promote international cooperation through a range of efforts, and would host member countries in 2018.  He expressed hope that it would play a “niche”, but unique role in the Strategic Plan’s implementation.

PAOLA DEDA delivered a joint statement for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia and “FOREST EUROPE”, saying the involvement of regional and subregional organizations had always been crucial in translating global messages into regional and national action.  Recalling that the 1947 International Timber Conference held in what used to be Czechoslovakia had recommended the European Forestry and Forest Products Committee and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Timber Committee, she recalled that they had been tasked with mobilizing wood for the post-war reconstruction effort and to improve the state of forests in Europe.  The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia were now celebrating the seventieth anniversary of their partnership, which had expanded to include the cooperation of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe — also known as FOREST EUROPE — a high-level, pan-European, voluntary platform for forest dialogue and cooperation.  Together, the three groups were currently working to develop recommendations and guidelines on green forest jobs, adaptation of forests to climate change and raising awareness of the value of forests, she said.

Mr. ACUZELL, speaking on behalf of the farmers and small forest landowners major group, said that successful implementation of the Strategic Plan would depend on the involvement of small forest landowners.  Emphasizing the global significance of forest-smallholder contributions to and potential benefits from the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, he said strong land-tenure policies and good governance encouraged family forest owners and farmers to invest in such long-term activities as tree growing.  The green carbon cycle arising from sustainable forest management was the world’s greatest contribution to three climate actions — carbon sink in standing trees, sequestration of carbon dioxide in growing trees and the substitution of fossil fuel-intensive products, wood-based building materials and household goods.  Because an individual smallholder held a weak position in the marketplace, the formation of effective producer organizations was the key to providing the basis for fair trade, winning respect from markets and authorities, and gaining a strong incentive to plan two trees after harvesting one, he said.

EVA MÜLLER, Director, Forestry Policy and Resources Division, Food and Agriculture Organization, delivered an introductory statement on behalf of the Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, saying it had held eight meetings and one retreat.  Paragraphs 20 to 22, 38 and 40 of resolution E/2015/35 recommended that the Partnership formalize work modes, strengthen its collaboration and prepare a work plan aligned with the Strategic Plan.  There was need for a policy document reflecting the Partnership’s mandate, function and modalities, which would serve as a basis for Government to use it.  Strengthening the Partnership would require a clear picture of existing capacities, as a basis for deciding how to observe new mandates.

She went on to state that responsiveness and flexibility were among the Partnership’s main assets, emphasizing that its mission was to enhance forest-related contributions to the 2030 Agenda, promote sustainable forest management and strengthen political commitment to that end.  On governance issues, she said the Partnership formed its activities according to rules of procedure, while its work programme included recurrent activities, joint initiatives, activities intended to strengthen the Partnership, identifying key contributions to the Partnership’s core functions, and compiling existing mandates from governing bodies.

The representative of Switzerland, while noting that elements of a work plan were in place, asked for the first version of that document, saying that, otherwise, it would be difficult to provide guidance at the current stage.  Furthermore, the website contained outdated information, she pointed out, urging the Partnership to be fully transparent in its dissemination of documents.  “As Member States, we are very eager to see those documents quite soon,” she emphasized, seeing details about a timetable and road map.

Ms. MÜLLER replied that the work plan was to have been developed in accordance with the Strategic Plan, which had had only been agreed in January.  Once that had been agreed, the Partnership had begun on its own work plan, having held a two-day working meeting in Rome.  Noting that collaboration with 14 international organizations was not a fast process, she said the draft work plan was ready and the programme budget implications must be added.  The policy document was also ready and should have been made available on the Forum’s website today, she added.

A representative of the scientific and technological community major group asked whether the Partnership Dialogue was the same as the partnership mentioned in a particular document.

Ms. MÜLLER said the Partnership Dialogue was a response to a request for stronger involvement by major groups.  It was not the same as the Forum’s Partnership Forum, she clarified.

A speaker representing the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan said the Partnership was an innovative mechanism to support the Forum’s work, adding that cooperation would be more effective if his Network joined the Partnership.

Panel

The Forum then held a panel discussion on the Collaborative Partnership’s contributions to Forum on Forests members, United Nations partners and stakeholders in the implementation of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030.  Moderating was Hosny el-Lakany, Distinguished Professor at Alexandria University, Egypt, and Adjunct Professor and Director, International Forestry Program, University of British Columbia.  It featured presentations by Carloe Saint-Laurent, Deputy Director, Global Forest and Climate Change Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature; Milena Sosa-Schmidt, Senior Scientific Officer, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Secretariat; and Xia Jun, Assistant Executive Director, Asia-Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management.  Eva Müller, Director, Forestry Policy and Resources Division, Food and Agriculture Organization, delivered a keynote address.

Keynote Address

Ms. MULLER said the Collaborative Partnership Forum’s new work plan outlined the collective contributions of its 14 members that would facilitate progress on each of the Global Forest Goals.  Noting that FAO had made combating climate change its highest priority, she said it had created a new department focusing on climate change, biodiversity, land and water.  It had also been asked to support countries in developing and implementing policies and measures to address the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, including by promoting and implementing sustainable forest management, she said.  FAO was currently working on the next edition of The State of The World’s Forests, which would be launched in 2018, she said.

The report aimed to present a comprehensive view of the relationship between forests and the Sustainable Development Goals, she continued.  Further examples of collaborative work on forest issues included the report on Sustainable Forestry for Food Security and Nutrition, produced by the High-level Panel of Experts of the Committee on World Food Security, and set for launch in June, and a proposed international conference to review current key drivers of deforestation and how they were being addressed.  Referring to FAO’s global network of Regional Forestry Commissions, she said the interaction between them and the Committee on Forestry was seen by Member States as a major asset, adding that the Commissions and the Committee had been collaborating on policy dialogues and the design of operational programmes.

Mr. LAKANY opened the panel by asking questions about the tasks and objectives ahead, and about how to move from strategy to implementation on the ground.

Ms. SAINT-LAURENT said the Union, an intergovernmental organization that also had non-State members, had joined the Partnership in 2002.  Describing how the Union’s work in forest landscape restoration could help implement the Strategic Plan, she noted that Global Forest Goal 1 had been integrated into its work.  The Union had co-hosted an event with Germany to launch the Bonn challenge to bring 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.  Whether it was restoration for food security, reduction of flood risk or creating gender balance, the Union helped to unlock resources for implementation.  It also worked to connect domestic with international priorities and funding opportunities.  More broadly, the Union could provide technical support, capacity-building and opportunities for synergies and streamlining, as well as by partnering with organizations, such as FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with which it was collaborating on the restoration initiative.

Ms. MILENA SOSA-SCHMIDT said the Strategic Plan provided a global framework for action to sustainably manage all forest types.  The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora could make direct contributions to all global forest goals and most associated targets, including goals to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss, and ensuring that international trade in wild flora and fauna was conducted at acceptable levels.

Mr. XIA JUN said that the Asia-Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management had 31 members, including 26 economies and 5 international organizations.  It worked to contribute to the achievement of global goals and targets related to forests, as well as areas such as the rehabilitation of degraded forests and the increase of forest cover.  It had also collaborated with its members to demonstrate good practices in forest preservation, he said, citing as an example the creation of a network of demonstration sites in the Greater Mekong subregion.

In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Colombia drew attention to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, also called the Ramsar Convention, and to regional instruments for the Forum to consider.  The representative of China welcomed the Partnership’s policy document and consolidated work plan, stating the belief that a stronger Partnership was both needed and expected.

The representative of Mexico said it was important for States to develop capacities, stressing the importance of regional dialogue mechanisms for cooperation.  The representative of Brazil asked about effects of such work on the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representative of Malaysia, noting that his country enjoyed assistance for building capacity, knowledge support, and research and development, said he looked forward to the streamlining of priorities.  He urged the Forum to ensure its work did not duplicate efforts of other bodies, stressing the need for resources for developing countries.

The representative of the European Union emphasized the importance of promoting the synergies between the Global Forest Goals and United Nations forest policies.  He called for greater cooperation through the strengthened Partnership work plan.

The speaker from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations said the Union had produced global scientific reports on forest issues through its expert panels, underscoring the group’s importance as a global network for forest science.

The representative of Chile said that the realization of financing the items under discussion should be borne in mind, and work should be directed to key aspects, information and experiences should be shared, and efforts should not be duplicated.

The representative of Papua New Guinea said that forest policies were evolving and the call for adaptive management had been noted.  Some countries however, had the capacity to keep up with the trend and implement international policy measures while others might not.  Whatever was done must be aligned with national priorities.

The representative of Indonesia congratulated the Collaborative Partnership on Forests on its work, and noted that the organization was working in a timely manner responding to the current situation.  However, criteria were needed in order to consider including the optimum size and roles of member organizations.  That might lead the Partnership to invite certain target international organizations to join, he said.

The representative of Iran said he supported the strong participation of Collaborative Partnership on Forests in working towards the achievement of the goals.  He asked how Partnership could reflect that work in its plan and how it would be achieved before the deadline.

In response to that question, Ms. MULLER noted that some of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals were very ambitious, but Member States had committed to achieving them.  Collaborative Partnership on Forests could support them in that endeavour but could not take responsibility for when the deadlines would be achieved.  Still, Partnership would support Member States within its own mandate and own capacity.

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*     The 1st Meeting was covered in Press Release ENV/DEV/1666 of 25 April 2016.

For information media. Not an official record.