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23 June 2014 


22nd session of the Committee on Forestry 

Opening Statement

Mr Felician Kilahama, Chairperson of COFO,

Your Royal Highness Prince Laurent of Belgium, Special Ambassador for Forests and the Environment,

Your Excellency Amane Djibergui, Minister of Agriculture and the Environment of the Republic of Chad and acting President of the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC),

Mr Bharrat Jagdeo, former President of Guyana,

Your Excellency Rosine Djibergui, Minister of Chad,

Your Excellency Djombo Henri, Minister of Congo,

Your Excellency Babaud Darret, Minister of Cote D´Ivoire,

Your Excellency Nelson Messone, Minister of Gabon,

Your Excellency Momodou Sabally, Minister of Gambia,

Your Excellency Khotso Matla, Minister of Lesotho,

Your Excellency Satya Faugoo, Minister of Mauritius,

Your Excellency Won Sop Shin, Minister of the Republic of Korea,

Your Excellency Beda Machar Deng, Minister of  South Sudan,

Your Excellencies Deputy Ministers of Bangladesh, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Russia and Zambia,

Your Excellencies Undersecretaries of the Philippines, Tanzania, Belgium, Indonesia, Canada, Finland and Saudi Arabia,

Mr Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary General, UN-DESA,

Mr. Piet Vanthemsche, President of Agricord,

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to FAO, to the Committee on Forestry (COFO) and World Forest Week.

Let me begin by thanking His Royal Highness Prince Laurent for accepting to advocate the cause of sustainable development as FAO Special Ambassador for Forests and the Environment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you know, we just finished our Council session last week, that encourages us to centre our efforts on implementing what has already been planned during the last two years.

You will remember that, when COFO last met in 2012, FAO was discussing its strategic direction. Today, I am pleased to let you know that this process is complete.

In the 2013 FAO Conference, our Member States, that is, your governments, gave their consensus approval to the reviewed strategic framework and to the 2014-2015 Programme of Work and Budget.

Our work is focused on five strategic objectives and on maintaining the high standards of our normative work.

This sharpened focus allows FAO to better respond to its three Global Goals: eradication of hunger; elimination of poverty; and sustainable management of natural resources.

Forestry is contributing significantly to reaching these goals and all five new Strategic Objectives, mainly thanks to your constructive guidance and support during the last COFO session.

We look forward to your continued engagement and support.

This is important to consolidate the changes that have been made so far and to further strengthen the role of forestry in our future programmes of work.

As you will see this week, FAO’s new strategic framework adopts an integrated approach of forest and farm management.

That integration supports small producers to sustainably increase agricultural production as well as conserving natural resources.

One clear example of this is the FAO-hosted Forest and Farm Facility. This week we will sign an agreement with the AGRICORD network to support this facility.

I would also like to emphasize that, as a centre of excellence, FAO is committed to make available knowledge and best practices to promote the sustainable management of natural resources.

One example is the SFM toolbox that will be launched at this session of COFO. The toolbox is an innovative platform to support implementation of sustainable forest management.

Ladies and gentlemen,

At this session, you will be presented FAO´s flagship publication the “State of the World’s Forests (SOFO)”.

In its 2014 edition, SOFO focuses on the socioeconomic benefits derived from forests. It is impressive to see how forests contribute to basic needs and rural livelihoods. For example, it provides firewood for cooking for 1/3 of mankind.

This is just one example of the importance of forests. Forests are also a carbon sink and preserve biodiversity. Let me say this clearly: we cannot ensure food security or sustainable development without preserving and using forest resources responsibly.

I am also pleased to announce that FAO has just launched the first ever publication on the “State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources”.

FAO prepared this document at the request of the Committee on Genetic Resources.

It is one more example of how we are working to provide you with comprehensive information to better understand the current state of forests, the challenges of preservation and the opportunities for sustainable use.

We sincerely thank you for your contributions to this report. And you can count on our support to implement the action plan that will follow.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me add that addressing climate change is a top priority for FAO. This is not only a problem for tomorrow, but also a reality that we must face today.

We are already feeling the impacts of climate change, for example, in rising temperatures, change in rain patterns, and the increase in frequency and violence of extreme weather events.

Climate change is already affecting our ecosystems, and forests are no exception.

At the same time, the world´s rural poor is among the most vulnerable populations because they have fewer coping mechanisms and usually live and produce in already marginal areas.

FAO is committed to helping countries increase the sustainability of food systems and reach the REDD+ objectives.

We encourage you to pull together to reach an inclusive agreement.

I also wish to acknowledge member countries’ continued strong commitment and support to the six Regional Forestry Commissions and the statutory body Silva Mediterranea.

And let me remind you that the next World Forestry Congress will be held in Africa for the first time. It will take place in South Africa in September 2015, with FAO´s participation and support.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I have said before, FAO´s calling is to be a knowledge organization with its feet on the ground.

This means not only being a centre of excellence in matters relating to food security, forestry, fisheries, livestock and agriculture, but also applying this knowledge to support countries reach concrete results.

This is not a one-way process: at the same time that we take knowledge to countries, we also learn from what we see on the ground and bring this back to the global level.

Technical commissions such as COFO are part of this symbiosis. The discussion on latest developments in forestry, the challenges the sector faces, the exchange of ideas and experiences that take place in COFO help oxygenate FAO and improve our work.

It is in this spirit that I wish you all a productive COFO and a successful World Forest Week.

Thank you for your attention.