21 March 2014
International Day of Forests
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning to you all. It is a pleasure to welcome you to FAO today, to celebrate the International Day of Forests.
And in 2014, we are doing this in the context of the International Year of Family Farming. Forest people are part of this group of family farmers, pastoralists, artisanal fishers, and indigenous and traditional communities.
They represent hundreds of millions of families that play a key role in guaranteeing food security in many countries.
In many cases, they are also directly responsible for the sustainable management of forests and natural resources. But, at the same time, they are among the world’s most food insecure.
This meeting is an opportunity to expand the dialogue on what we need to do, collaboratively, to support them and strengthen sustainable forest management.
We need this because forests play a central role in maintaining global climatic equilibrium, protecting soils, regulating the water cycle, preserving biodiversity, and providing livelihoods and food for over one billion people.
Forests cover one third of the globe’s land area and are home to over 80 percent of its biodiversity.
Three quarters of the freshwater used for household, agricultural and industrial needs is provided through forested watersheds;
Over 65 percent of the global population relies on medicines derived from forests as their primary form of health care.
These are just a few examples of the importance of forests in our lives. It is our responsibility to use them sustainably.
And we need to do this because there are over one billion forest people worldwide whose livelihoods depend on forests. They need to have the tools and support to use and manage forests in a sustainable way.
When this does not happen, they are forced to engage in activities that promote undesired outcomes such as the degradation or even destruction of forests.
It is up to us to offer viable alternatives.
Improved governance from the local to the global level must underpin our attempts at sustainable forest management.
And we can see the benefits when we support them.
The adoption of sound policies are helping to reduce land degradation and deforestation, and improve the health of forests in countries such as Ecuador, Viet Nam, Zambia and many others.
Forest restoration and tree planting have significantly helped to reduce the net loss of forest area, especially in Asia.
By acting this way, we can use forests now and, at the same time, preserve them for future generations.
That is central to sustainable development. This is an approach that is also central to the revised strategic framework of FAO.
Forest-related issues have gained visibility and momentum in international dialogues. It is encouraging that sustainable forest management and the livelihoods of forest people are among the issues on the post-2015 development agenda.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Experience has taught us that the foundation of solid policy decision-making and inclusive and conclusive public debate is sound information.
This is why FAO is using this year’s celebration of the International Day of Forests to ask: how can we improve the availability of information on the state of forests at all levels: nationally, regionally and globally?
FAO has a long tradition of expertise in forest inventories and national forest monitoring and assessment systems.
This is a data-gathering process that has been strongly propelled by REDD+ and the need to monitor forest-related carbon stocks.
As you know, forests retain as much carbon as the entire atmosphere. So the way we lose, manage or restore them has serious implications for the climate, for the millions of people who rely on forests for their livelihoods, and ultimately, for every citizen of this planet.
We also need reliable data to understand where and how deforestation is happening so that we can take the necessary steps to stop it.
Many countries are taking measures to improve their forest monitoring systems,. FAO is honored to be part of this process.
As part of these efforts, FAO, the Government of Brazil and the countries of the Congo Basin, the second most important tropical forest basin in the world, are finalizing an innovative project to assist 10 member countries of the Central Africa Forestry Commission - the COMIFAC - to improve the monitoring of their forest cover.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In closing, let me invite you to two events on the forestry calendar this year: the FAO Committee on Forestry meeting that starts on June 23, in Rome. And the 14th World Forestry Congress that begins September 7 in Durban, South Africa.
I hope you enjoy today’s presentations and discussions on new ways of monitoring and managing our forests.
Thank you for being here and for your attention.