24 July 2003, Rome - More than 3 000 foresters, scientists, members of forest-based communities and others interested in forests from over 120 countries are expected to participate in the XII World Forestry Congress in Quebec City, Canada, 21-28 September 2003.

The organization of the Congress is a result of the joint efforts of the Department of Natural Resources Canada and the Ministère des Ressources Naturelles du Québec, in collaboration with FAO.

Discussions will be based on the Congress theme Forests, Source of Life.

"Nations must manage their forests in a sustainable way so that present generations can enjoy the benefits of the planet's forest resources while preserving them to meet the needs of future generations," FAO Assistant Director-General, Forestry Department, Mr M. Hosny El-Lakany said.

Commenting on the World Forestry Congress, Mr El-Lakany indicated that FAO will contribute 37 voluntary papers to underline the importance of forests for mankind and to challenge the world community to do more in areas where forests play a fundamental role.

FAO contribution tackles various issues ranging from assessment and management of forest resources to forestry and climate change, forestry trends in the next 50 years, the impact of deforestation, forest fire management, forest-based poverty reduction and trade opportunities for non-wood products.

The World Forestry Congress, which is hosted every six years by an FAO Member country, provides a global forum to discuss forest management, conservation and development.

It is the largest and most important international meeting of the world's forestry sector. Its final non-binding recommendations are addressed to governments, international organizations, scientific bodies, forest owners and other interested institutions or individuals.

Forests and people

Participants will address the many expectations that people place on forests and will focus on how different socio-cultural values influence the way forests are perceived and managed, FAO says. It will help to improve harmony between people and forests.

They will examine the state of the world's forests and their capacity to provide a wide range of goods and services. Main issues include:
  • maintenance of biodiversity;
  • watershed management;
  • water and soil conservation;
  • climate regulations;
  • carbon sequestration and storage;
  • fire management;
  • prevention and control of illegal logging, poaching and smuggling;
  • non-wood forest products;
  • wildlife management;
  • agroforestry, trees outside forests, low forest cover;
  • recreation and tourism.
In Quebec, FAO will stress the importance of three new thrusts in its programme: forests and water, forests and poverty/food insecurity alleviation and forests and climate change.

With water scarcity increasingly recognized, FAO is giving priority to the role of forests in conservation and sustainable use of water resources. Forests and forested watersheds have an essential role in sustaining and protecting water supplies.

Well-managed forests have a direct impact on the quality of water yields from watersheds. They also contribute to soil erosion control and consequently to reducing the levels of sediments downstream, according to FAO.

"We are asking forest scientists to demonstrate more clearly the role of forests in influencing water balances. At the same time, we are asking foresters to make water management a prominent feature of their forest plans," said R. Michael Martin, FAO Forestry Department Director of Policy and Information.

Forests, through storing carbon in their wood and in the soil, play an important carbon sink function, countering climate change. Healthy and well-managed forests are essential to the global climate balance.

Regarding poverty and food insecurity alleviation, FAO is drawing attention to the 840 millionfood insecure and the role of forests in meeting some of their essential needs.

"FAO is challenging foresters to commit themselves to the wide campaignagainst hungerlaunched at the 1996 World Food Summit through better integration of tree resources in agriculture and a focus on assistance to small enterprise and farmers to produce marketable products to build income," Mr. Martin also said.

International trade

Regarding international trade, developing countries are still waiting to benefit fully from the array of international agreements in general and international trade in forest products in particular.

FAO hopes that the Quebec City gathering will reap fruits not only with regard to sustainable forest management but also to a greater say and role of the poor in forest decisions.

In developing countries, wood-based fuels are the dominant source of energy for more than 2 billion poor people. But wood is not the only resource taken from forests.

In those countries, about 80 percent of the people use non-wood forest products for health and nutritional needs and for income.

"Making sure that forests are well managed today so that they can continue to provide essential goods and services in the future is the goal of FAO," underlined Mr. El-Lakany, head of the FAO Forestry Department.

Pierre Antonios
Media Relations Officer, FAO (Rome)
(+39) 06 570 53473 / (+39) 348 2523 807

Sonia Corriveau
Corriveau relations publiques (Quebec)
(001) 418 529-6000