[Dateline: New York | Author: Department of Economic and Social Affairs]
A special session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) took place at UN Headquarters on 30 October, marking the first time that all Member States of the United Nations have agreed on a roadmap to catalyze funding for sustainable forest management around the world.
The work of the Forum is supported by the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). The UNFF Secretariat serves as the DESA focal point on all forest policy issues and provides coordinated support and analytical services for policy discussions on sustainable forest management.
Mr. Arvids Ozols of Latvia, Chairman of the Forum, said that the debate of financing for sustainable forest management had been long and controversial and the consensus reached was a “breakthrough”. The successful adoption of the Forum’s decision on Friday marks the culmination of over seventeen years of debate on forest financing, dating back to the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.
The UN Forum on Forests will launch two significant initiatives, to be implemented by the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat. The Forum will establish an intergovernmental ad hoc expert group to conduct in-depth analysis of all aspects of forest financing over the next four years, and a facilitative process on forest financing, to assist countries to mobilize funding from all sources.
Mr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant-Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the Forum had succeeded in taking a critical decision at a time of global efforts to fight climate change by adopting the first-ever road map for means of implementation of sustainable forest management.
Over 1.6 billion people depend on forests for subsistence, livelihood, income and employment. Trade in forest products had an estimated value of $327 billion in 2004, representing 3.7 per cent of global trade in all commodity products.
Every year, about 13 million hectares of the world's forests are lost due to deforestation.
Forests are home to at least 80 per cent of all terrestrial biodiversity, and some estimates indicate that deforestation of closed tropical rainforests could account for the loss of as many as 100 species a day. Deforestation also accounts for 35 per cent of carbon emissions in developing countries and 65 per cent in least developed countries.
The intergovernmental ad hoc expert group will analyze existing financing strategies for sustainable forest management, and explore ways to improve access to funds, including the option of establishing a voluntary global forest fund. Ms. Jan McAlpine, Director, UNFF Secretariat said, “It is critical that all options for funding and funding mechanisms be considered for the benefit of forests around the world.”
The facilitative process addresses the special needs of countries that have faced a 20-year decline in forest financing. Specifically, these include least developed countries, low forest cover countries, high forest cover countries with low deforestation, low to medium income countries, small-island developing states and low-income countries in Africa.
The first phase of the facilitative process, focusing on small island developing states and low forest cover countries, has already received financial support from the Government of the United Kingdom.
Ms. McAlpine said that the UNFF facilitative process will develop innovative solutions by bringing together all actors, including donors, governments, stakeholders and the private sector, and that 90 percent of the value of the process will be in the dialogue generated by this initiative. “Inter-sectoral and cross-institutional approaches are vital to developing sustainable solutions”, she said, “We must learn together, so that we may act together.”