Convening two years after the adoption of a landmark strategic plan for the planet’s woodlands, the United Nations Forum on Forests opened its fourteenth annual session today amid renewed commitments to expand forest cover, reduce greenhouse‑gas emissions and improve the lives of some 1.6 billion forest‑dependent people around the world.
In particular, speakers pledged to achieve the United Nations strategic plan’s 6 “global forest goals” and their 26 targets, including transforming decades of deforestation into a 3 per cent increase in forest cover by 2030. Many delegates shared their countries’ strides in sustainable forest management — from new laws to better data collection to innovative incentive structures — while some also presented their official national voluntary contributions to the Forum.
Boris Greguška (Slovakia), Chair of the fourteenth session, declared: “What is crucial for the Forum is to generate an irreversible momentum and keep faith with the promise we all made to transform our world.” Emphasizing that countries and stakeholders will need to tackle the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation while striking a balance between economic growth, social progress and sustainability, he recalled that, by adopting United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030, the Forum “set the bar high” to reverse the loss and degradation of the world’s forests.
Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), President of the Economic and Social Council, said forests provide a comprehensive solution to multiple challenges, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, land degradation and desertification. Noting that the Council’s 2019 high-level political forum will review the progress made on six Sustainable Development Goals, she called on the Forum to galvanize broad support for the sustainable management of all types of forests, sending a strong signal about forests’ role in empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.
Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said forests drive economic growth and represent a safety net for both the rural and urban poor in developing countries. They are also central to mitigating climate change and contribute substantially to biodiversity. Unfortunately, development policies that prioritize land use for agriculture and energy have resulted in deforestation, she said, describing the strategic plan’s target of 3 per cent forest cover expansion as a landmark goal.
The representative of Senegal, on behalf of the African Group, stated: “We depend on forests for our survival, from the air we breathe to the wood we use.” However, forests are still being allowed to disappear. Noting that greenhouse‑gas emissions from energy, transport and deforestation are among that the main drivers of climate change, he stressed that “we should plant forests firmly in the solution space”.
The observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, agreed that forests are central to sustained poverty reduction, with over 1.6 billion people around the world depending on their resources. They provide food, fuel, timber, shelter and non‑food products, in addition to contributing to soil and water conservation. Underlining the Forum’s vital role in promoting policy cooperation in sustainable forest management, she highlighted its comprehensive mandate and encouraged other forest-related initiatives and processes to cooperate with the body.
The representative of Australia, pointing out that her nation is the seventh most forested country in the world, outlined the contents of its voluntary national contribution — covering efforts to deliver sustainable forest management, reduce carbon emissions, fight illegal logging and plant 1 billion trees over 10 years. “With many challenges and competing demands, our shared vision for our forests requires bold and decisive action from us all,” she stressed.
The representative of China, also presenting his country’s voluntary national contribution, reiterated the pledge to continuously increase forest area. In 2018 alone, China established 7 million hectares of plantation. The Government is also working to provide economic and social benefits and improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent people, he said, emphasizing that, by improving food security and related services, China will eliminate all poverty among its population by 2020.
Several speakers described specific circumstances on the ground, including instances of desertification, natural disasters and land degradation. The representative of Uzbekistan, for one, sounded caution about the drying up the of the Aral Sea — once the fourth-largest sea in the world — which he described as an almost lifeless desert. Two United Nations Secretaries-General visited the Aral, with both viewing the situation as a challenge for the world as a whole. In addition, he said, the 6 million dried up hectares have contributed to air pollution and the degradation of soil through saline evaporation.
The Forum also convened two panel discussions on the themes “Forests and climate change” and “Forests, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and employment”, respectively.
Members, by acclamation, elected Khalid Cherki (Morocco), Kitty Sweeb (Suriname) and Rob Busink (Netherlands) to serve as Vice-Chairs of the session’s bureau. Mr. Cherki was also elected to serve as Rapporteur. In addition, members approved the session’s provisional agenda and programme of work.
At the outset, the Forum observed a moment of silence to commemorate the lives lost in an airline crash in Ethiopia in March, including that of Peter de Marsh, representative of the Forum’s major group for farmers and small forest landowners.
Also speaking were representatives of Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Romania, Israel, Canada, Germany, India, Thailand, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Morocco, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Venezuela and Zambia.
A representative of the European Union and an observer for the Holy See also participated.
The Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 7 May, to continue its work.
BORIS GREGUŠKA (Slovakia), Chair of the fourteenth session of the Forum on Forests, said the meeting is a timely opportunity to demonstrate and secure early wins in key areas of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017‑2030. “This will lead us to catalyse and drive much needed changes across sectors for forests and people around the world,” he said, adding that all countries and stakeholders will need to tackle the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation while striking a balance among economic growth, social progress and sustainability. Governance must be improved to integrate forest issues across sectors and implement coherent policies and programmes.
Underscoring the importance of the 6 global forest goals and their 26 targets, he recalled that, through the strategic plan, the Forum “set the bar high” to reverse the loss and degradation of the world’s forests — particularly in tropical regions where some 7 million hectares of forest are lost every year. “What is crucial for the Forum is to generate an irreversible momentum and keep faith with the promise we all made to transform our world,” he stressed, adding: “If we maintain our fidelity to this master plan, by 2030 we will have reversed the loss of forests and increased them by 3 per cent globally.” By the same token, the attainment of the global forest goals by 2030 will eradicate extreme poverty for all forest-dependent people and significantly contribute to addressing many global challenges, including mitigating and adapting to the increasingly devastating effects of climate change.
RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that forests provide a comprehensive solution to multiple challenges, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, land degradation and desertification. She noted the role of the Forum on Forests, as part of the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council, in setting the global agenda on forests and providing policy advice and recommendations to Member States and other stakeholders.
Noting that the 2019 high-level political forum will review the progress made on six Sustainable Development Goals, including goal 13 on climate change, she called on the Forum to galvanize broad support for the sustainable management of all types of forests. The Forum’s contribution will send a strong signal about the importance of forests in empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. As the global intergovernmental body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests, it is important that it continue providing its contributions during the new phase of work of the high-level political forum, she stressed.
MARIA-FRANCESCA SPATOLISANO, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, speaking on behalf of Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General, noted that 2019 marks the second anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations strategic plan for forests. Calling for stronger cooperation and political commitments, she said that forests are among the most productive renewable natural resources. They drive economic growth and represent a safety net for the rural and urban poor in developing countries. Forests are central to mitigating climate change and contribute substantially to biodiversity. Unfortunately, development policies that prioritize land use for agriculture and energy continued to result in deforestation, she said, recalling that expanding global forest area by 3 per cent is a landmark goal of the strategic plan.
Continuing, she provided an update on the reform of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs pertaining to the work of the Forum. Noting that the process is aimed at making the Department more streamlined and effective, she pledged to provide agile and valuable support to Member States in the context of the 2030 Agenda’s implementation. Among other things, that meant aligning the Department’s work with the implementation of the Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, appointing a new chief economist and strengthening partnerships with the private sector and academia. Meanwhile, the Department is fully supportive of other important reforms — including the repositioning of the United Nations development system — and established a structural engagement channel with the Organization’s resident coordinator system and with national partners. Emphasizing that forests are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, she recalled that through its adoption of the strategic plan for forests the Forum took a major step in highlighting the contribution of forests to the Goals’ implementation. The Department remains committed to supporting those efforts, she said.
HOSSEIN MOEINI-MEYBODI, United Nations Forum on Forests secretariat, then introduced a note by the secretariat (document E/CN.18/2019/2), which spanned two agenda items: “Implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030” and “Emerging issues and challenges”. Summarizing that document — intended to serve as a basis for the Forum’s technical discussion and exchange of experiences on the thematic and operational priorities, priority actions and resource needs for the period 2019‑2020 — he said those discussions will feed into the high-level political forum, to be held from 9 to 18 July. In line with the items to be considered by that body, the note provides information on forests in the context of Sustainable Development Goals 4, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 17, relating to climate change; quality education; inclusive and sustainable economic growth and employment; peaceful and inclusive societies; reduced inequality and inclusive institutions at all levels; and partnerships. In addition, he said, the note considers the communication and outreach strategy for the strategic plan for forests, provides updates on countries intending to present their voluntary national contributions at the Forum’s fourteenth session and makes recommendations aimed at enriching the technical discussion.
SAHAR ABUSHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that forests are central to sustained poverty reduction, with over 1.6 billion people around the world depending on their resources. All types of forests provide food, fuel, timber, shelter and non-food products, in addition to contributing to soil and water conservation. Stressing the vital role of the Forum in promoting policy cooperation in sustainable forest management, she highlighted its comprehensive mandate and encouraged other forest-related initiatives and processes to cooperate with the body.
Noting that the strategic plan for forests 2017‑2030 and its global targets provide a solid framework for advancing global forest policy coherence, she called for the full implementation of goal 4 and its five associated targets. Stressing the importance of predictable financing from all sources, she said there must be an increase in official development assistance (ODA) to carry out sustainable forest management in developing countries. Noting major gaps in current allocation of resources, she called on the international community to restore degraded forests.
Mr. AL SAADON (Saudi Arabia), recalling his Government’s establishment of a special ministry on forests, said that an environmental fund has been set up to combat desertification. Further, the forest department is working on decreasing deforestation and conducting research on forests, in line with the United Nations forest management policies. In cooperation with partners in other ministries as well as the private sector, the ministry is planting millions of trees. The current plan is to plant 12 million trees, he said, noting that the country has a land area of 2.2 million square kilometres, with forests accounting for 1 per cent currently. Inviting delegates to a forthcoming conference in his country on sustainable development in semi-arid areas, he said that forests provide oxygen even to those who want to cut them down.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), speaking on behalf of the African Group and aligning himself with the Group of 77, declared: “We depend on forests for our survival, from the air we breathe to the wood we use.” However, “we are still allowing them to disappear”. Urging the international forest community to redouble efforts to implement the strategic plan for forests as a tool for achieving poverty eradication, supporting rural livelihoods and protecting biodiversity and genetic resources for future generations, he spotlighted the critical challenge of human‑driven climate change. Noting that greenhouse‑gas emissions from energy, transport and deforestation are among that phenomenon’s main drivers, he said the latter alone accounts for more than 20 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions. “We should plant forests firmly in the solution space by encouraging local action that meets our global climate change and sustainable development goals,” he said, calling for the participation of a wide range of investors, as well as efforts to restore forests around the world.
Mr. GONZATO, observer for the European Union, echoed calls for the body to provide clear input to the high-level political forum and for the development of ambitious and realistic frameworks for diversity protection, forest restoration and combating desertification, among other challenges. Noting that forests and the forest-based sector provide jobs and diversified incomes in both rural and urban areas, he underlined the need to facilitate an enhanced sense of responsibility for forests and their services. He also reiterated the need for a strong, effective and fully transparent secretariat to support the Forum’s work.
Mr. OWUSU-BIO (Ghana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that, if Member States commit themselves to the strategic plan, it would increase the profile and visibility of the forest-related targets of the 2030 Agenda. Calling on all countries to develop sustainable forest‑development policies, he outlined the various steps taken by Ghana, including its enhanced voluntary contributions. The country also organized a nationwide celebration of forests focusing on education and is implementing a 25‑year national plantation development policy, with an annual target of 25,000 hectares. Recently, the Government introduced a programme called youth in reforestation, employing 50,000 youth to grow trees, he said.
ZHANG HONGWEN (China), stressing the importance of sustainable forest management, said his country is establishing various policies to promote the implementation of the strategic plan. Announcing his country’s voluntary national contribution, he said that China will continuously increase its forest area. In 2018 alone, it established 7 million hectares of plantation. Further, the Government is focusing on providing economic and social benefits and improving the livelihoods of forest-dependent people. By improving food security and alleviating poverty through ecological industries, China will eliminate all poverty in its population by 2020, he said. The country has also established 15 per cent of its area as protected forest land and is working to resolve problems caused by multisectoral management by establishing a unitary management policy.
TEGAN BRINK (Australia), delivering a general statement and summarizing her State’s voluntary national contribution, said her nation is the seventh most forested country in the world. “With many challenges and competing demands, our shared vision for our forests requires bold and decisive action from us all,” she said. In that context, she said, Australia’s voluntary national contribution highlights four core elements: the country’s efforts to increase its productive forests by planting 1 billon trees over 10 years; its work to deliver ecologically sustainable forest management, thereby ensuring forests deliver both productive and conservation values; efforts to reduce emissions through forest plantings and active monitoring and reporting; and strong action to combat illegal logging and associated trade.
TOMASZ GRYSA, observer for the Holy See, said that the rapid destruction of forests is depleting their biodiversity so quickly that the full extent of the loss might never be known. Recalling Pope Francis’ words, he said that the loss of jungles means not only the loss of species, but also the loss of vital relationships that could end up altering entire ecosystems. Many vulnerable populations around the world depend on forests for their dwelling, livelihood and cultural heritage. Expressing concern about the fate of the Amazon, he highlighted its vital role as the largest tropical forest and the most extensive river system on the planet. It is crucial to break with the historical paradigm that views Amazonia as an inexhaustible source of supplies for other countries, he stressed.
Mr. GUTIERREZ (Nicaragua), aligning himself with the Group of 77, highlighted his country’s great wealth of diversity, both biological and sociocultural. As much as 50 per cent of its forests are in the territories of indigenous and Afro‑descendant communities, he said, also noting that three of its natural reserves have been declared biospheres by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Nicaragua is developing a policy of sustainable forest management while working to increase its levels of economic and social growth. In addition to efforts to reduce deforestation, it is also increasing plant cover through a national reforestation crusade, which aims at the environmental recovery of 2.8 million hectares by 2020.
Mr. JUSTIANTO (Indonesia) said forests play a critical role in human life and provide a wide range of benefits, particularly in developing countries, including by supplying water and energy and promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns. Outlining Indonesia’s voluntary national contribution, he said the country has pledged to reduce deforestation and allocated more than 12 million hectares for the livelihoods of forest communities. Meanwhile, it also encourages business to obtain sustainable forestry certificates and promotes financing for micro- and small enterprises. Indonesia also participates in the programme known as “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+) and works to monitor progress in reducing carbon emissions from deforestation, he said.
DANIEL-CONSTANTIN COROAMĂ, Secretary of State, Ministry of Waters and Forests of Romania, recalled that his country took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union from January to June. Emphasizing that the Forum should provide a clear and eloquent input to the high-level political forum, he said sustainable forest management, forest multifunctionality, ending biodiversity loss and promoting sustainable value chains in forestry are also strategic objectives of Romania’s national policy. Climate change and increased biotic and abiotic hazards — combined with the increase of biodiversity conservation — require adaptation of forest management. Underlining the global responsibility for such efforts as combating the illegal logging trade and promoting the sustainable consumption and production of forest products, he said Romania has implemented strict administrative rules and legislative action to those ends.
Mr. KARAVANI (Israel) said that, since its earliest days, the country has upheld a policy of sustainable forest management. Announcing his country’s voluntary national contribution, he said that Israel can play a crucial role in contributing to various goals of the strategic plan for forests. Since its establishment in 1948, the country has increased its forest area by 1,800 per cent, he said, adding that Israel will also share its scientific and technical expertise actively. The country has only a tiny fraction of the world’s forests, but it has enormous expertise in forestation, especially in combating desertification. With climate change and other threats escalating, the sharing of knowledge should meet adequate financial resources, he stressed.
CHRISTA MOONEY (Canada) said that her country’s Council of Forest Ministers agreed in April to a new vision for the nation’s forests, one that reflects the Sustainable Development Goals better. To ensure that vision reflects Canadian values, the Government engaged with stakeholders across the country on matters including the wide range of benefits provided by forests, the need for improved collaboration with indigenous people and increased forest resiliency in the face of natural disturbances, such as fires. Given the tremendous growth opportunities for the forest sector, the Government is making an investment of up to $251 million over three years. This will support programmes dedicated to forest‑based economic development for indigenous communities across Canada, pre‑commercial research and development in the emerging economy, and expanding wood use in non-residential and mid-rise construction.
Mr. SCHOWERER (Germany), outlining his country’s first voluntary national contribution, said his nation conducted a full scrutiny of its forest-related policies in light of the United Nations strategic plan for forests. Describing the country’s sound frameworks — including laws, training, research and support for forest owners — he nevertheless expressed concern about the continued impacts of deforestation on climate change. “Much more needs to be done to save the world’s natural forests,” he stressed, noting that his country developed a national Forest Strategy 2020 and created a knowledge-sharing platform for interaction between Government and forest experts. It also participates in or leads various relevant multilateral initiatives, including the New York Declaration and the German International Climate Initiative. In addition, he said, Germany committed to pledge up to $5 million in support of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and will soon announce a contribution to the Forum on Forests trust fund.
Mr. DAS (India) said his country’s robust institutional frameworks and policies have helped improve the sustainability of it forests, increasing its forest cover by more than 8,000 hectares in recent years. Spotlighting commitments to further increase that number and to reduce emissions through carbon sinks, he said India remains committed to the implementation of its national REDD+ strategy and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. National policies now include forest-dwelling communities in the management of the India’s forests, he said, adding that the distribution of some 64,000 community forestry titles has enhanced the livelihoods of forest dwellers across the country. In that context, he also underscored the importance of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network to building developing countries’ capacity to sustainably manage their forests.
PONGBOON PONGTONG (Thailand), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said that his Government recognizes the importance of biodiversity, clean air, livelihoods of people and resilience against natural hazards. The country has been implementing its national forest policy since 1985, with a long-term goal of reaching 40 per cent of national forest coverage. The Government is also working to promote commercial and economic forests in partnership with the private sector, local communities and other stakeholders. A national project has been established to allocate land for local communities that depend on forests, and several laws and regulations were amended to support the involvement of such communities in forest resource management.
Ms. CORONEL (Ecuador), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said that her country has a national plan for development that ties in with Agenda 2030. In compliance with Sustainable Development Goals, the country has been promoting environmental awareness, and observed the International Forest Day through various education programmes aimed at youth. The indigenous peoples of Ecuador are the front‑line protectors of its forests, she said, noting that they are also most vulnerable to the adverse effects of forest degradation. Announcing her country’s voluntary national contribution, she said Ecuador is developing a plan that works with its socioeconomic reality, given that 44 per cent of the population directly depends on forests. Noting the increasing number of droughts and forest fires, she stressed the importance of tackling climate change and strengthening adaptation systems.
Mr. DAWD (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77, expressed support for forests for climate change adaption and mitigation, as well as for human livelihoods. Spotlighting Ethiopia’s non-oil-based economy as one of the largest in Africa, he said land degradation and climate change threatens the economic progress of many developing countries. Ethiopia, for its part, has started down a path aimed at the sustainable management of land, water, plants and other natural resources. For example, its Rural Land Administration Proclamation and other recent laws seek to expand the production of sustainable forest products through incentive mechanisms. Such policies grant individuals and associations land free from lease payments; ensure tax-exempt status until forests attain maturity; and aim to decouple economic growth and social development from environmental degradation. Ethiopia also aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2025, he said.
MERYEM HAMDOUNI (Morocco), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, called for the revamped implementation of the strategic plan for forests and strengthened partnerships at the national, regional and subregional levels. Recalling Morocco’s voluntary national contribution — presented at the Forum’s thirteenth session — she said the country has been able to secure about 98 per cent of its forest lands, reduced the impact of floods and reduced the area of forests burned annually despite a rise in the number of forest fires. She also voiced Morocco’s strong support for cooperation in the sustainable management of forests, especially between countries of the global South.
Mr. NOVITISKI (Uzbekistan) said his Government has adopted a national plan to create new forest areas and established a State committee on forestry as the implementing body. The country has developed criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management and is working to restore 500,000 hectares of land. Sounding caution about the drying up the of the Aral Sea, which used to be the fourth-largest sea in the world, he said that area is now almost a lifeless desert. Two United Nations Secretaries-General had visited the Aral and both had arrived at the understanding that this is a problem for the world as a whole. The area that dried up constituted 6 million hectares of sea, thus leading to air pollution and degradation of soil through saline evaporation, he said, proposing that 2020 be declared “the year of the issues linked to the Aral Sea ecological catastrophe”.
NAME TO COME (South Africa), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that forests and trees are at the heart of environmental protection. There is growing evidence that climate change is affecting the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities, she said, adding that its negative impact on agriculture has rendered significant regions of farming land useless. The international community can no longer delay the implementation of the strategic plan, she said, calling for sustainable forest management in all its dimensions. Attaining global forest goals requires improvement of implementation mechanisms, financial allocations and technology transfers, she stressed.
NAME TO COME (Côte d’Ivoire), noting the continued loss of forest cover in his country, said the Government is responding to the complex problem of protecting forest, fauna and water resources. At the end of a thorough participatory process that included stakeholders from the private and public sectors, the Government adopted a policy with the goal of recovering at least 20 per cent of the country’s forest area by 2025. A new forest code that aims to achieve this goal will be submitted to the country’s national Assembly in the next few days. Noting that the 2019 International Day of the Forest was observed with a series of activities, including planting of trees and various youth activities, he pledged that Côte d’Ivoire will work with international partners to fulfil its commitments.
NAME TO COME (Venezuela), associating herself with the Group of 77, underlined her country’s deep commitment to encouraging conservation and the sustainable use of ecosystems and forests, as well as increasing its forest reserves, protecting biodiversity and combating climate change. Outlining several concrete national policies, she said the 1999 Constitution sought to reverse the deforestation caused by Venezuela’s past reliance on extractive industries. Instead, the new framework calls for the sustainable use of land and forest management. “We must bear in mind, however, that in a world of upheaval the challenges in the economic and social spheres have an impact on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda,” she said. Indeed, some countries continue to implement unilateral economic, financial and trade measures that curtail the self‑determination rights of peoples and bring about serious challenges. Calling for an immediate end to such acts, she said countries should instead work together in full respect for their various development plans and visions of sustainable development.
NAME TO COME (Zambia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, described his country’s newly enacted legislation which transferred total control of forests to local communities. Those actions are expected to increase Zambia’s total forest cover by about 2 per cent, he said, also outlining a new national forest conservation plan covering such arenas as agricultural practices, markets and ecotourism.
The Forum then held a panel discussion on “Forests and climate change”, featuring the following experts: Duncan Brack, Senior Research Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs; Elena Paoletti, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Forest Institute; and Igor Viszlai, Communication Expert at Forest Europe.
Mr. BRACK said that, between Sustainable Development Goal 13 and the strategic plan, which has many references to climate change, there is a solid international framework around the question of forests and climate change. Highlighting forests’ ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide, he said that deforestation also contributes to global warming. The main driver of deforestation is commodity-driven deforestation, he said, and forests lost to agriculture are not likely to be reforested. Noting that tropical forests are carbon‑neutral now, which is unfortunate because they should be absorbing carbon, he pointed out that climate change will further worsen natural disturbances in forests. “We know what to do”, he said, “but we aren’t doing it”.
Ms. PAOLETTI, underscoring the importance of the global forest goals, stressed the role of “a forest-based bioeconomy” in achieving those goals. “We like wood, we don’t want to live in a plastic world,” she said, calling on the international community to consider the novel concept of sustainable forest operations. Increasing population demands that “we produce more wood from less forest”, she said, adding that sustainable forest operations can maximize efficiency, reduce forest waste and increase forest product quality. Noting that forest work is among the most dangerous forms of work worldwide, she stressed that there is no sustainable forest management without sustainable forest operations.
Mr. VISZLAI, pointing to the increasing number of natural disturbances, said that forest management needs to adapt to climate change, with the issue tackled in a collaborative manner due to its transboundary character. Experts from his organization, Forest Europe, are working to collect and analyse existing resources on adaptation measures, as well as identify best practices and recommendations for the integration of adaptation measures into sustainable forest management in Europe. The organization also conducts workshops on topics ranging from how to respond to forest disturbances to adapting to climate change. He concluded by showing a short documentary on how European forests will be affected by climate change.
When the floor opened for discussion, delegates shared their perspectives and national experiences. The representative of Costa Rica pointed out that the international community is not responding adequately with financial allocations in line with the efforts being made by developing countries with forest cover, and asked about how best to finance such efforts.
The European Union’s delegate highlighted various regulations and policies the bloc adopted to improve sustainable forest management, while the representative of New Zealand wanted to know what specific value the strategic plan on forests can bring to “the crowded and noisy conversation on climate change.”
The representative of Nigeria said that carbon financing is difficult and suggested that the Forum could establish a mechanism to liberate private financing.
The representative of the farmers and small forest landowners major group stressed that secure land tenure is essential to sustainable forest management.
The representative of the scientific and technological communities major group highlighted the disproportionately high impact of climate change on Africa. Mount Kilimanjaro used to be famous for its snow-covered peaks, but has seen most of its snow disappear, he said, calling for stronger collaboration between scientific and policy communities.
Responding, Mr. BRACK said that not enough money is going into climate mitigation. Noting the vital role of governance and law enforcement, he said it is crucial to ensure that agricultural and land‑use policy be aligned with forest policy, but this is not the case in most countries.
Ms. PAOLETTI said that, while harmonizing the vocabulary and finding common terminology is important, not all counties can implement policies equally. It is vital to maintain the profitability of forests, and that may come from tourism or wood products, she said, because more profitability means more businesses investing in sustainable forest operations.
Mr. VISZLAI said that the policy recommendations of his organization are freely available on its website.
Also participating in the discussion were the representatives of India, China, Brazil, Canada, Ukraine, Finland, Ecuador, United States, Norway, Slovakia and Bangladesh.
The Forum then convened a second panel on the theme “Forests, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and employment”. It featured: José Joaquín Campos Arce, Senior Forester and Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Centre for International Forestry Research-World Agroforestry Centre; Pia Katila, Coordinator of World, Forest, Society and Environment Assessment at the International Union of Forest Research Organizations; and Gill Shepherd, Visiting Professor of the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Mr. CAMPOS ARCE said 2015 saw a unique opportunity in the form of the 2030 Agenda, an unprecedented global shared vision for sustainable development. To push that vision forward, he said, collaborative action and “grand responses” are now required. In particular, he called for stronger support for locally controlled forest enterprises, local forest management and major changes in consumption and production patterns. Noting that more than a billion people rely on forests for livelihoods and subsistence, he said the 2011 estimated contribution of forests to the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) was about $600 billion. Making several recommendations, he spotlighted the dissemination of knowledge among policymakers on the important role of forests in human livelihoods; ensuring local control of forest-based enterprises; encouraging sustainable nature-based tourism; and stronger regulatory mechanisms. Meanwhile, Governments and employers should address such challenges as lack of job security and gender wage gaps, and countries should tackle illegal logging and the related trade.
Ms. KATILA, focusing on the interaction between the global forest goals and Sustainable Development Goal 8 on decent work and economic growth, spotlighted several risks of “trade-offs” if one is pursued at the expense of the other. When seeking economic growth, she said, countries have often prioritized job creation and failed to consider or monitor resource depletion. Noting the particular importance of the informal sector in forests’ contribution to livelihoods, she nevertheless said woodlands’ environmental benefits — including through carbon sequestration and other mechanisms — is not well documented. Indeed, forest‑related activities are part of diverse livelihoods strategies, she said. Among other recommendations, she proposed decoupling economic growth from forest‑related resource degradation; harnessing political synergies by integrating forests into economic growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction strategies; improving information dissemination on the true value of forests; building cross-sectoral coordination and policy coherence; addressing trade-offs; and strengthening the voices of local actors.
Ms. SHEPHERD said that large numbers of people work in the formal forest sector and a larger number in the informal forest sector. In the past, women have been an important part of users of forests and are gradually coming to the forefront. Ethiopia has now given forest rights to women. Some of the best ways of looking after forests come if they are owned and looked after by indigenous people and local people who are there on the spot. Looking at the pattern of change of ownership, the proportion of public forests within which customary arrangements took place is decreasing and the area owned by private companies is increasing. As a result, forest tenure is an area that needs a profound rethink. On building partnerships, she said that the international level can set ambitious goals for forest restoration and the lower levels can make it happen. At the local level, local people and officials are dealing with specific problems and changes, and work at the national level often comes about because of experience at the local level. National‑level officials are brought to the local level to look at results. Work should therefore be carried out at the local level and expanded up from there.
The representative of Nigeria said that, with regard to the global forest goals, forests in his country contribute to employment, especially in rural areas in the informal sector. However, due to the conventional methods of capturing such information, it is not captured often.
The representative of Ecuador said that, in her country, it is endeavouring to find the real value of the forest sector for the economy as a whole. Light needs to be shed on the forest sector and the informal component of that sector, and the high-level political forum needs to discuss the real value of forest resources in countries.
The representative of Costa Rica said that, with regard to forests and employment, national realities and circumstances are very different. His country has small landholders and the forestry component is part of this rural landscape. How a small landholder considers these issues must be taken into account, as they generally have properties that have a bit of everything. They are small producers, and this must be considered in the provision of technical assistance.
* The 1st Meeting was covered in Press Release ENV/DEV/1852 of 11 May 2018.