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Nguyen Ngoc Binh
Director General, Department of Forestry

Friday, 25 April 2008

His Excellency Hua Duc Nhi- Vice Minister of Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

His Excellency Jan Heino - Assistant Director-General for Forestry for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Distinguished guests, Colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen,

The end of Asia-Pacific Forestry Week is upon us and it is my honour and pleasure to address you all and make some final observations and comments after a week of intensive and stimulating discussions. This week’s presentations, meetings, and other forestry related events have been organized in response to heightened awareness of the importance of trees and forests in sustaining the region’s economic, environmental and social systems. Global and local changes are taking place at faster and faster rates and the new century is presenting some of the greatest challenges mankind has ever faced. In this changing world, the values of trees and forests are changing too and we must strive to ensure that these values are preserved, and invested in. As you will recall, the week’s sessions focussed on the overarching theme of “Forestry in a changing world” which was addressed in three plenary sessions:

The importance and gravity of each of these issues has been central in expanding forestry related dialogue in the region and, in relation, this is the first time that the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission meeting has been expanded into Asia-Pacific Forestry Week.

The government and people of Viet Nam are honoured to have hosted this auspicious event and I would like personally to thank Mr Jan Heino, FAO’s Assistant Director General of Forestry as well as Patrick Durst and the FAO secretariat for their support in organising the meeting. I would also like to thank all of the collaborating organisations – almost 50 of them – for their support in running such a large number of events covering a broad range of topical themes. There are many others to thank including the distinguished delegates from the nations of the Asia-Pacific region and the knowledgeable resource persons who have informed us of new developments in forest and forestry related matters.

I do hope that you all enjoyed the week’s activities and that you will take back with you renewed vigour to tackle the challenges that face us. I make all necessary apologies for any difficulties that you may have suffered with the logistic arrangements while here in Hanoi. Let me say that it was our first time to organise a meeting of this size and we understood at first that there would be 200 participants...but then there were 300! and 400! and finally 700! Some people thought we couldn’t do it but with support from the organizing partners and from my highly competent staff here in Viet Nam I think we can justifiably claim success and I thank you all for your enthusiastic participation.

The aim of Asia-Pacific Forestry Week has been to expand knowledge of “Forestry in a changing world” and by doing so to help define a sustainable future for forestry in the years to come. We hope that this informal gathering will strengthen the bonds that that link us to trees and forests - and to each other - as stakeholders in Asia-Pacific forestry.

I declare Asia-Pacific Forestry Week closed and wish you all a pleasant evening and a safe journey home.

Thank you.

Jan Heino
Assistant Director-General
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Distinguished Mr Hua Duc Nhi, Vice Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Distinguished Mr Nguyen Ngoc Binh, Director-General of the Forest Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Distinguished participants and colleagues, At the closing of this first-ever Asia-Pacific Forestry Week, it is my great pleasure to congratulate you all for this highly successful event. The inaugural Asia-Pacific Forestry Week assembled many of the most outstanding forestry leaders, some of the most eloquent and knowledgeable forestry advocates, and many of the finest forestry minds, available to the Asia-Pacific region, and indeed the world. We have all greatly benefited from the ideas, learning and experiences that have been generously shared during the rich array of events that have been woven together to create this watershed event. An outstanding feature of Forestry Week has been the broad range of innovative events – more than thirty – arranged by nearly fifty partner agencies. There has been outstanding diversity and innovation in the topics and formats these have taken. We have had plenary sessions, dialogues, sessions, seminars, workshops, meetings, networks, managed debates, field trips, book launches, and a Café Scientifique!

Ladies and gentlemen,

The theme of Asia-Pacific Forestry Week, “Forestry in a changing world,” recognized that decisions are being made in new and evolving contexts on the world stage. Let me now try to sum up a few of the most significant outcomes from the 22nd session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission and the entire Forestry Week. Many of the important recommendations arising from APFC also reflect themes and issues discussed in the plenary sessions and parallel events of Forestry Week.

  1. During the week, we repeatedly stated that climate change has been the vehicle that has returned forestry to centre stage of the international agenda during the past two or three years. Among the recommendations on climate change arising from the Commission Session were calls for greater attention and assistance to building capacities of countries to enable them to participate in the increasingly complex mechanisms being developed within the climate change agenda. FAO is certainly cognizant of this need. Let me also reiterate the request to our many institutional partners – that we collaborate and cooperate to ensure efficient delivery of assistance to the countries to help them deal with this complex issue. The session also noted the clear request to further promote inter-sectoral and international co-operation and collaboration in developing responses to emerging forestry challenges.
  2. We talked on the theme of “People and forests,” recognizing that people-centred development is increasingly the focus of forestry policies. We talked about the mainstreaming of decentralization, participatory decision making, benefit-sharing mechanisms and empowerment of people who live in and around forests. A key recommendation from APFC was to continue efforts to enhance community-based forest management and forestry initiatives that help reduce poverty.
  3. On the theme of “Trade, forest law compliance and governance,” we reviewed the diverse nature of illegal forestry activities and associated trade. Governments, civil society and the private sector came together to discuss interactions between forest law enforcement, governance and trade. It was very heartening to see all countries and sectoral groups – including producers, processors and consumers – assuming responsibility, and expressing commitment, to combating this serious challenge.
  4. As to activities of FAO and the APFC in the region, FAO received a long list of requests from the session, including calls for FAO’s continued support for executive training in forest policy, forestry education networks, the regional forest policy initiative and national forest programme activities.

Finally, in the discussion on the Changing roles of forestry agencies, countries demonstrated a remarkable awareness of, and readiness for, the need to constantly adapt forestry institutions to the rapid changes of society.

Distinguished colleagues, change has become a constant in our lives and in our work. The world is changing rapidly and the forestry sector cannot ask it to turn more slowly. Therefore, the drive for continuous improvement, to do things better, to reinvent ourselves and our institutions, must be ever-present. We have to continuously question whether we are focusing on the right issues. Do we have the right skills and the right people to implement our programmes? The institutional structures – do they empower us to work efficiently to meet increasing demands for participation, social equity, and empowerment? We also have to anticipate emerging changes and demands.

Fellow participants, ladies and gentlemen,

I have found this first-ever Asia-Pacific Forestry Week to be enlightening, informative and extremely enjoyable. To a very large part, this success is due to our hosts. On behalf of FAO, I wish to offer my very sincere thanks to the Government of Viet Nam, and especially to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Forestry Sector Support Partnership, for their great generosity and outstanding efforts in organizing Asia-Pacific Forestry Week. I am fully aware that the organizational burden has been immense, and appreciate that this burden has been shouldered by our hosts with unflagging enthusiasm and unfailing courtesy. I particularly thank Mr Binh for his excellent leadership and able chairmanship of the 22nd session of APFC. I also extend my warm thanks to the Vice-Chairs Messrs Karma Dupka and Kanawi Pouru and Madam Zhang Hongyan for accepting the responsibility and for sharing the chairing duties. The contribution of our Rapporteur, Mr Neil Hughes is also much appreciated. Let me also offer thanks to the many, many organizations that have enriched Forestry Week by bringing innovations and creative approaches to various events and for contributing important financial resources. Similar thanks, to all of you, who have contributed to this invigorating event. Such collaboration and goodwill will long be remembered as a crowning feature of Asia-Pacific Forestry Week. Thank you.

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