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Competing interests need to collaborate to help restore Asia-Pacific’s forests or risk missing 2030 sustainable development targets

Trees have been cut down in the forest north of Chiang Mai in order to make new fields for agriculture.
24/10/2017 Colombo, Sri Lanka

The forestry sector across Asia and the Pacific must collaborate with a wider range of stakeholders if countries in the region are to meet key targets of the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission meeting here this week.

Landscape management or landscape approaches – terms used to refer to a holistic way of ensuring forests are working to the advantage of the environment, water and land management, agriculturalists and the private sector, among others – are not being applied adequately by the various stakeholders. As a result, two of the main SDGs relating to forests (SDG 6 and 15), may not be achieved by the 2030 deadline.

There are a number of factors impeding progress in Asia and the Pacific, and in Sri Lanka, the host of the 27th APFC.

“In the current post-conflict era, Sri Lanka is striving to optimize the economy through a comprehensive development process to ensure the better living conditions for our people and in this process we all have the responsibility of protecting the natural resources and environment of our country, which is rich in biodiversity,” said Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka who is also Minister of the Environment at the opening of the event.  

The Commission session also heard that unprecedented technological change, social disparities, climate change and natural disasters further intensify these challenges.

How to meet the complexity in natural resources management is a question that is posed to the leading forestry experts and policy makers from 23 member countries who are attending the APFC.

“In order to ride the wave of these transitions we have to find new ways to manage forests and forestry,” said Thomas Hofer, Senior Forestry Officer at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. “In these transitions and the risks they entail, we need to ensure forestry proactively contributes to shaping change. This will require sound strategic thinking, wise investment and broad cooperation among stakeholders at all levels.”

A new horizon needed for a new forestry landscape

More than one billion people are estimated to be ‘forest peoples,’ mostly in developing countries, who depend on forest for their livelihoods and income. Twenty eight percent of total income among households living in or near forests is contributed by forest and environmental income.

The Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration estimates two billion hectares of deforested and degraded land are potentially available for restoration, of which at least 400 million hectares are located in Asia-Pacific.

Some 25 percent of Asia’s landmass is covered by forests. Overall, there has been some increase in forest cover in recent years, mainly thanks to a major reforestation effort in China. However some other countries in South and Southeast Asia continue to lose forest cover each year.

 “There are major changes in many of the dimensions in which the forest sector operates – the socio-economic landscape, the science and technology landscape, the cultural landscape, the environmental landscape, the political landscape and many more,” said Hiroto Mitsugi, FAO Assistant Director-General of the Forestry Department.

Delegates have heard that better management of natural resources, in particular dealing with land, water and forests, will also require adopting landscape approaches that include cultural linkages that many people have with their forests and landscapes.

During his opening remarks to delegates, Mitsugi went on to say: “This highlights the broad contribution that forestry can make to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), beyond the two Goals – SDG 6 and SDG 15 – that specifically address forestry. It also exemplifies the broad new landscapes that are open to forestry, if we have the confidence, the vision, and the drive to grasp the available opportunities.”

The 27th Session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) is convened by the FAO from 23-27 October 2017 at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), Colombo, Sri Lanka, hosted by the Forest Department, Government of Sri Lanka.

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