Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu

Transcription of the Director-General’s Opening Remarks at the

Launch of the State of the World's Forests: Forest, Biodiversity and People

Friday 22 May, 10:00-11:39

Zoom Meeting


Hello, Inger, since you became the Executive Director (ED) of the UNEP, FAO has become the hotspot of international ceremonies on the environment and agro-environment and all related topics.


Dear colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning from Rome and welcome to the launch of the State of the World’s Forests 2020, or SOFO2020 as we call it.

Last year, FAO published the State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture. This was a first global assessment of its kind.

My message was that biodiversity is essential to food and agriculture. Even if biodiversity was dramatically declining.

I always repeat to say that we also need to transfer from biodiversity to food diversity.

Today, on the International Day for Biological Diversity – this is my third celebration this week. We started with a very pioneer animal, the bee. Without bees, how can we maintain biological diversity, and even keep the agro-food system alive and the environment sustainable?

Then, we came to tea. Yesterday, we celebrated the first ever International Day of Tea. Tea plantation also is a good place for the environment friendly and also the livelihood improvement for the mountainous and hilly regions, where most people are poor. Now, they found a balanced crop, which is tea, building on sustainability and development. I think in Asia, from China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, In those regions for 3 000 years they kept their plantations sustainable.

In the final year of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, we are launching and reporting now today and look specifically to the state of biodiversity in the world’s forests. Since forests cover most of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. I think forestry is some kind of a refugee shelter for biodiversity. That is what I understood, because as I said, my home lies near by the big mountains in south China, in the sub-tropical region. Last year, I participate in the celebration of Mountain Day. I said, “we are people from mountains”, but of course all human beings are originally from the mountains, from highlands.

I think understanding and keeping track of the state of world’s forests ecosystem has never been so important. I said not only forests, ecosystem also, even more, because if you just keep the forest alone to be protected, it is impossible. You have to maintain in certain large areas the ecosystem, no matter if they are mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, wetlands, even deserts.

When I was a Governor in Ningxia, it is surrounded from three directions by desert and there we worked to protect the desert with a minimum of ecosystem and biodiversity. If we did not protect that minimum of biodiversity it would become sand completely. Even in the sandy arid areas, it is very challenging to protect the ecosystem.

We know that the degradation and the loss of forestry, bush and grass, there are several steps of degeneration of the ecosystem. The forestry is the highest level, if you have especially big trees, not only bush, and the increase in the risk of human epidemic diseases. Because forests, even the primary forests, secondary forests and then it comes down to the different levels of the biomass production or productivity. You see, we have to measure the biomass productivity and production and then it is a way to see how degradation is, how it is improved or rehabilitated. We created one big county in Ningxia, it is 8 000 square kilometres of the county. We did another trial for about 20 years. You can imagine it is a long-term effort and strategic effort to rehabilitate the ecosystem.

We also know that the economic recession caused by the pandemic put additional pressure on forestry and ecosystems, since they are often the social safety net in terms of crises in many developing nations.

More importantly, forestry and the ecosystem, are also a better aspect for the natural reverence. As I said in Chinese traditional culture, we call it the natural reverence. You have to show reverence, not only respect, but reverence to nature first and there you can build the harmonized society between human being and mankind in nature. If we did not show reverence to nature, there are no solutions at all. We need natural reverence, and science-based solutions for building back better.

If we restore, conserve and manage them sustainably, they can help create jobs and livelihoods, conserve biodiversity, mitigate climate change and also help us to have a more resilient environment to adapt to all the challenges, natural and bio-stress challenges.

In this context, FAO is proud to be co-leading the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as of next year.

FAO prepared this edition of the State of the World’s Forests (SOFO) together with UNEP, especially with thanks to our colleagues from UNEP, for your hard work, professional consultation, and also your help and assistance.

This is another good concrete example of how close cooperation between the UN system builds coherent actions and offers more collective, comprehensive impact on the common integrated issues, because the Organization is established or funded by special mandate aspirations. But we need society since the environment is very complex and we need more partners to work together.

As I said, as the FAO Director-General, I want to build a closer partnership with any UN organization, international organizations, private sector, civil societies, and technical institutions.

Then, we can really address the complex and comprehensive issues, which is the real world. A lot of staff in UN organizations just look at a slice of the environment, slices of society. The real world, the real society, the real environment is very complex, so we need more people to play together and to work together.

I am happy to hand over to my dear friend, Ms Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP for her welcome remarks and for your SOFO comments and suggestions and guidelines to FAO.

Thank you.