The United Nations Forum on Forests concluded its tenth session in Istanbul on 20 April after agreeing on a series of measures to improve the sustainable management of forests, and deciding to consider setting up a voluntary global fund to support this endeavour.
The Forum, which met for the first time away from UN Headquarters in New York, adopted two resolutions as it wrapped up its two-week session, one on forests and economic development – the main theme of the session – and the other on financing.
Recognising the vital role of forests to lives and livelihoods, the 197 member countries of the Forum called on national governments to take a range of actions to improve sustainable forest management, from substantive data collection to addressing the causes of deforestation and forests degradation.
Also, while recognizing that there is no single solution to meet all forest financing needs, the Forum agreed that multiple sources of financing, at the national, regional and international levels, was needed from various sources, public and private, including consideration of a voluntary global forest fund.
Forests cover one-third of the Earth's landmass and about 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood. Three-fourths of freshwater comes from forested catchment areas and forests stabilise slopes, prevent landslides and protect coastal communities against tsunamis and storms. More than three billion people depend on forests for wood for cooking and heating.
“There is now greater recognition than ever before that forests are essential to economic development and sustainable development,” said Jan McAlpine, Director of Forum's Secretariat.
“In this historic meeting, countries broke new ground and agreed to take actions that demonstrate the need to sustainably manage our forests so that they can continue to be a source of livelihoods, broader economic development, including clean air, clean water and biodiversity – all leading to poverty eradication.”
The two-week session was attended by two Prime Ministers, one Vice President and over 50 ministers and high-level officials. Highlights included events showcasing sustainable forest management best practices and the individuals and countries that have actually put these practices into innovative use, as well as awards honouring activists, filmmakers and photographers from around the world.
The Forum, set up by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2000, is the only international body that addresses all forest and tree policy issues. Countries will decide at the next session in 2015 how the functions of the Forum will continue internationally, as well as whether there is a need to develop a global treaty on forests.
“The successful outcome of [the session] proves once again the key and unique value-added role of the Forum as a global policy-setting body on all types of forests,” said Mario Ruales Carranza of Ecuador, Chair of the Forum's tenth session, hailing the outcome as “a new milestone” in financing forests and economic development.
The deliberations over the past two weeks had paved the way for a positive future and would no doubt contribute significantly to the next session in 2015, when “crucial decisions” would be taken regarding the future of the world's woodlands and the UN institutions promoting their proper stewardship, he added.