22 September 2003, Quebec/Rome -- At the opening day of the XII World Forestry Congress (Quebec City, 21-28 September 2003), Dr. Jacques Diouf, FAO Director-General, stressed that sustainable management of forests rests on tangible achievements.

Dr. Diouf called on all concerned to implement ideas, principles and programmes progressively put in place by preceding congresses, post Rio conventions and the international forest dialogue.

He also called for regional and global action effectively focused on concrete outcomes that make sustainable forest management an active and living reality.

Today, less than 5 percent of the world forest resources are effectively managed in a rational manner, according to FAO.

Global forest is shrinking. An FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment completed in 2000 reveals an annual net reduction of 12.4 million hectares of forest in tropical developing countries over the previous decade.

A vital role

"Forests, source of life" is the theme of the World Forestry Congress organized jointly by the Department of Natural Resources Canada and Ministère des Ressources Naturelles du Québec, in collaboration with FAO.

More than 3 000 foresters, scientists, members of forest-based communities and others interested in forests from over 120 countries are gathered in Quebec City.

Underlining the importance of sustainable management of forests, Dr. Diouf said the role of forests is vital in mitigating conditions that alter climate and in combating land degradation and desertification.

Sustainable management rests on the conservation of biological diversity and on the realization of the economic functions of forests. It means reasonable options aimed at protecting a global mass of forests that contributes to stabilising climate.

Forests for food

The greatest challenge is hunger, which affects more than 840 million people in the world, Dr. Diouf said.

"Foresters, through the conservation of natural resources and of functions that maintain productive processes, can ensure an environment that fosters effective and sustainable food production," Dr. Diouf also said.

In addition, forestry can help rural poor people find employment and thus generate revenues that permit them to have access to food.

According to Dr. Diouf, another challenge is mobilising water resources to use them efficiently and in a sustainable manner.

Good water management requires mastering the resource and using it efficiently in order to produce enough quantities of food for a rapidly growing world population.

Well managed forests protect precious aquatic resources by preserving banks along water ways and protecting soils against erosion.

The role of trees and forests in the management of watersheds should be recognised and strengthened.

Forest fires

Sustainable management would have spared many countries an explosion of forest fires, notably those of this past summer.

Regarding the economic and social importance of international trade in forest products, which amounts to 100 billion dollars, FAO observed that the revenues from such trade are essentially concentrated in the richest countries in the world or in the hands of intermediaries other than producers.

Word Forestry Congresses - which are hosted every six years - serve as a forum to exchange views and experiences and to discuss matters concerning all aspects of forestry that might lead to formulation of recommendations applicable on a regional or global basis.

These recommendations can be brought to the attention of the FAO Conference for possible endorsement, through a resolution.

Pierre Antonios
Information Officer, FAO
mobile: (+39) 34 825 23 807