Rome/Québec City, 29 September 2003 -- "By harmonizing the needs of people and the planet for forest services we can progress along the path of sustainable development," the XII World Forestry Congress underlined at the conclusion of a week-long intensive debate on the future of forests.

In a final statement released in Québec City, Canada, on Sunday 28 September, the Congress stated that "forests have enormous potential to make an invaluable contribution to the imperatives of this era: for environmental security, poverty alleviation, social justice, enhancement of human well-being, equity for present and future generations."

"However, harmonization between people and the planet cannot be achieved by forest managers alone. Bridges must be built with other sectors," according to the Congress final statement.

"For the first time, the World Forestry Congress has addressed what humans need from the forest, what the forest can provide sustainably and the harmonization between the two," FAO Assistant Director-General M. Hosny El-Lakany said.

Dr. El-Lakany, who heads FAO's Forestry Department, indicated that the Québec gathering helped to bring about more awareness that forest issues should be reinstated on the political agenda at the highest level.

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. Worldwide, some 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods.

The participants in the Congress pledged to work towards reducing deforestation significantly over the next decades, expanding or maintaining forest cover, enhancing forest restoration and strengthening the role of plantations in supplying wood products.

The right of indigenous peoples, forest communities, forest workers and professionals were re-emphasized, and their role in decision-making related to forest management and utilization have been recognized, Dr. El-Lakany indicated.

He also said that the balance between economic, environmental and social aspects of forests was reiterated at Québec City.

"We envision a future with social justice, economic benefits from sustainable forest management, participatory governance and responsible use of forest resources," according to the final statement of the Congress.

"We also envision a future where healthy forests supply the full spectrum of products and services: soil and water conservation, maintenance of biodiversity, climate regulation, carbon sequestration; where forest cover is increasing, where forest fragmentation is decreasing, and where degradation is halted."

From talk to action

To realize this vision, the Congress called for sustained political commitment, a stronger forest sector, bridges with other partners and sectors, sustained international cooperation, recognition of the knowledge of indigenous people and management of forests and trees at local and regional scales.

Above all, the Congress urged countries to move the intergovernmental dialogue on forests from talk to action.

The final statement urged the world community to promote policies, partnerships, education, management and better monitoring, evaluation and reporting on progress in achieving the balance between the needs of people and the planet.

The Congress recognized that forest education and research are essential for sustainable forest management.

Participants in the Congress pledged to exert renewed efforts to ensure that forests make a strong contribution to the achievement of the Millenium Development Goals and other internationally agreed targets.

The Congress requested FAO to monitor, assess and report on progress on the implementation of the conclusions outlined in its final statement. A progress report will be presented to the XIII World Forestry Congress to take place in 2009.

The XII World Forestry Congress held from 21to 28 September 2003 in Québec City, Canada, attracted more than 4 000 participants from more than 140 countries.

A wide spectrum of issues, in context of the Congress theme: Forests, Source of Life, was considered under three programme areas: Forests for People, Forests for the Planet and People and Forests in Harmony.

Participants included various levels of government and international organizations, NGOs, individuals from rural communities, private forest owners, labour, indigenous people, youth, industry, environmental organizations and scientific and academic community.
Pierre Antonios
FAO Media Relations Officer
(+39) 06 570 53473