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Statement by Hon. Mr. Kiran Gurung, Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation of Nepal, at UNFF8, New York, 20 April 2009

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Statement by Hon. Mr. Kiran Gurung, Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation of Nepal, at the opening session of the plenary of the Eighth Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests, New York, 20 April 2009
Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished delegates,
It gives me an immense pleasure to participate in the 8th session of the United Nations Forum on Forest representing Nepal.
Mr. Chairman,
Nepal attaches a great importance to the UN Forum on Forests, especially in advancing the spirit of global partnership to the integrated approach to sustainable management of forests with the full participation of all stakeholders. We value the importance of international policy coordination to facilitate transfer and sharing of knowledge and experiences for the sustainable management of forests.
Global climate change has the most serious negative consequences to the Himalayas, often called as the Third Pole of the planet earth. Though not caused by the people in this region, global warming has universal negative impacts on fresh water, biodiversity and socio-cultural status of the people in the Himalayan region. Nepal Himalayas possess eight of 14 tallest mountains on earth, including the Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world. The Himalayan mountains play a significant role in maintaining global environment and human civilization. The Himalayas are the source of fresh water and repository of a rich biodiversity including endemic plant and animal species and many unique medicinal herbs. The Himalayas, its lakes, glaciers and rivers are the water towers that feed Asia’s great rivers and ensure drinking water for millions of people. The glacial lakes are growing rapidly because of global rise in temperature. Some of these glacial lakes are close to bursting that posing great dangers causing flash floods that may bring great disaster in South Asia and beyond. The rapid melting of glaciers could diminish the freshwater flow in rivers across South Asia, resulting in widespread water shortages. Himalayan alpine flora are more vulnerable to global warming and at risk of extinction due to consistent reduction in land area with elevation. We should develop a long term strategy and effective plan to mitigate the effect of global warming in the Himalayas. Therefore, I would like to draw the attention of the Forum and propose that the international community should start saving the planet earth starting from the top of the world- the Himalayan ecosystem and secure future of the billions of people.
Mr. Chairman,
Forests play significant role in saving global biological diversity and cultural heritage, and providing with life support system through food production, watershed management and livelihood opportunities to the people.
Nepal has accumulated experience of over three decades in community- based forest management, which includes preserved indigenous knowledge. About one third of total population in the nation is engaged in managing forest land through over 15,000 community forest user groups. The government has been carrying out community forests development programmes through local empowerment. This has led to increased forest cover on previously degraded land. Some of the key advantages of this approach include income generation for local community, wise selection of resource extraction, cost effectiveness, empowerment of local people, and utilization of indigenous knowledge in conservation of resources. This has also greatly contributed in inclusiveness and ownership of natural resources for varied socio-cultural groups in the rural areas.
I am happy to inform you that Nepal has been selected in Forest Carbon Facilities Program under REDD. We are in process of formulating strategy plan for Forest Carbon accounting and trading. We are committed to our motto- “New Nepal Green Nepal”. However, we believe that until and unless pervasive rural poverty is eradicated from the society, forest resources conservation could not be effective. Keeping this in mind, together with the Federation of Community Forest Users, government of Nepal has launched a “Green Job Program” that will create one hundred thousand extra jobs each year through the promotion of forest-based enterprises. As w e have very limited resources and several competing demands, external assistance could play significant role in this regard.
Mr. Chairman,
Allow me to draw the attention of this Forum to the common concerns of the local and indigenous communities, who are the custodians of forest biodiversity in Nepal in particular and around the globe in general. Some of the crucial questions, in this context, to ponder with are: Are they getting appropriate share of the benefits they deserve? Are we serious enough to pay back to the nature for what we derived from it? Whether the current global instruments are sufficient to maintain current level of forest resources? I think we have to devote more attention on these issues to make the forum more successful.
The Government of Nepal, together with the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), is jointly celebrating the year 2009 as “Nepal Nature Conservation Year” with the objective of sharing the experiences and achievements recorded in the area of natural resources conservation apart from ensuring enhanced joint work in this arena. I would also like to inform you that Nepal is hosting an International Conference entitled "Conservation in Changing Climate in the Himalayas" from December 1-3, 2009. I look forward to seeing a good participation, including many of you, in this conference to be held in Katmandu.
Mr. Chairman,
Before I conclude, let me touch upon the on-going positive change in Nepal and our commitment toward sustained peace and development. Nepal is in a big political transformation. A highly inclusive Constituent Assembly elected last year is actively engaged in drafting a new constitution. It is spearheading a forward-looking constitution writing process with the most inclusive state-restructuring. People’s participation is overwhelming and the political parties are committed to the unique process of people-led transformation to a “New Nepal”. The government is committed to bringing the peace process to its logical conclusion. All these developments will have significant bearing in the sustainable development of forests. At this historic juncture, we are confident that the international community will extend us continued cooperation in the days ahead.
I hope that our discussions through the next two weeks will result in a remarkable achievement to shore up international cooperation in sustainable forests management. This would energize our actions as we resolve to create a just and prosperous world in the face of persistent poverty and growing threat of climate change.
We believe that our success in this session will be judged by our determination to advance the means of implementation. We should be able to find a sustainable and predictable funding mechanism in the face of emerging threat to the environment and the growing constraints arising from global economic and financial crisis. We cannot fail to deliver on equitable development needs.
Thank you for your attention!