Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to join you at this side event on the role of the private sector in forest financing. I extend a warm thank you to the organizers, the International Union of Forest Research Organisations and the University of Yale.
The issue of finance is one of the key factors to full implementation of sustainable forest management. Many, if not most, countries around the world continue to struggle to find the financial means to implement sustainable forest management. Indeed, funding continues to be sought from those sources best known to us – namely government budgets at the national level, and official development assistance, or ODA, at the international level.
However, decision-makers are increasingly aware of the changing landscape of forest financing. The private sector is among the new, emerging and innovative sources of forest financing. Private sector financing has the potential to play a major role in the implementation of sustainable forest management. It has the potential to create win-win opportunities for local economies, for the environment and for local communities.
Yet, the private sector does not currently contribute as much as we hoped it might. It is often argued that this is the case because the business of the private sector is maximizing profits.
On the other hand, experience on the ground has shown that there are win-win opportunities for all in sustainable forest management – for private companies, for local communities and for the environment.
I have seen such success stories in my own country, China, where businesses, farmers and local governments work together to fight soil erosion, land degradation and to promote afforestation and reforestation.
In many cases, companies have been able to secure returns on their investments in resource conservation; local farmers have continuously improved their sustainable livelihoods; and local economies have flourished.
Instead of trade-offs, let us focus on win-win opportunities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We warmly welcome this occasion to promote and bring in the private sector as true partners. Large companies are, undoubtedly, one of the least tapped sources of forest investment and financing. Yet they are also among our most important partners in the implementation of sustainable forest management.
The private sector can help in many ways, including through:
- large-scale investments using direct financing or carbon credits,
- through public-private partnerships aimed at reliable provision of health, education and transportation for remote, forest-dwelling communities;
- or through government-regulated sustainable practices for forest management on timber concessions or private lands.
However, we must also take a hard look at the impediments that discourage private investment in many countries. To attract them to invest, we must all work side by side. It is the only way forward.
Let us therefore reach out and explore, together, how the private sector can contribute to benefiting future generations with the same wealth of forest resources that we enjoy today.
I wish to thank the private sector representatives who travelled here to discuss these issues. I invite you to continue to work with UNFF. The forests need you and we believe you need the forests.