Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai to address high-level FAO meeting on forests
President of the Republic of the Congo and the Prime Minister of Finland to address the opening sessions
14 March 2005, Rome - Wangari Maathai, who received the Nobel Peace prize last year for her dedication to the conservation of the environment by planting trees all over Africa, will address a high-level FAO meeting on forests tomorrow in Rome.
His Excellency Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of the Congo, will address the opening session today. He recently hosted a summit of heads of state for the conservation of the Congo Basin forests in central Africa and was instrumental in forging the first regional conservation treaty for the basin. At 241 million hectares, the basin is the world's second largest rainforest.
The Prime Minister of Finland, His Excellency Matti Vanhanen, will give a keynote speech tomorrow. As a country very active in international forestry and with one of the highest percentage of forest cover in the world, Finland has been a staunch supporter of FAO's work in forestry. The forestry sector contributes eight percent to its gross domestic product, second only to the electronics industry.
A native of Kenya, Wangari Maathai has worked for the past 30 years to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and other countries in Africa, in recognition of the contribution of the environment to peace and poverty eradication. Her Green Belt Movement, founded in 1977, has since catalyzed women all over Africa to plant trees.
Maathai is the first woman from Africa to be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize and receive a Ph.D. and the first female professor in Kenya. She is currently the Deputy Minister of Environment of Kenya and an Ambassador at large for the Congo Basin forests.
"It is a great honour to have such prominent personalities here in Rome and we hope that they will continue to serve as examples of courage, dedication and vision for sustainable forest management," said Hosny El-Lakany, Assistant Director-General of the FAO Forestry Department. It is also hoped that their presence would contribute to raising forestry to higher levels on the global political agenda.
Some 50 ministers and 400 representatives of national forestry agencies, international organizations and non-governmental organizations will discuss international cooperation on forest fires, deforestation, post-tsunami rehabilitation and the role of forests in achieving the Millennium Development Goals this week in Rome at the third Ministerial Meeting on Forests and the seventeenth session of the Committee on Forestry.
The committee is held every two years to discuss the most prominent global issues in forestry and the last ministerial meeting was held in 1999.
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