Editorial - From Salt Lake City to Durban: a window of opportunity for science, policy and practice

By Professor, dr. Niels Elers Koch, President of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations

The scientific community plays a crucial role in informing and shaping global forest policies and thereby fostering coherent action. From providing robust information on critical policy questions to instigating forward-thinking policy debates, the community’s support will be key as major upcoming events chart a new course for the world’s forests.

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The coming months will be crucial for shaping the future of the world's forests. The United Nations General Assembly will adopt a set of universal Sustainable Development Goals that converge with the post-2015 development agenda. The Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will aim to achieve a legally binding agreement on climate from all the nations of the world. The member states of the United Nations Forum on Forests will decide on a future International Arrangement on Forests. And, the XIV World Forestry Congress under the theme of Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future will for the first time bring together the global forestry community on the African continent to review and analyse key issues in forestry.

All these processes provide important opportunities to reverse the current trend of an increasing fragmentation of forest policy at a global scale and, hence, increase the effectiveness of agreed actions across various levels of governance. The scientific community as an integral part of these processes must play an active role in supporting them through the provision of solid information on key policy questions and by drawing attention to critical issues which are not yet on the policy agenda.

Against this background, it is encouraging to note the significant progress made in strengthening the science-policy interface in several forest-related processes, for example through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and major interdisciplinary initiatives such as Future Earth. Major steps have also been taken towards strengthening the science-policy interface in forest-focused processes. The Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP), an initiative led and coordinated by IUFRO on behalf of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, produces interdisciplinary scientific assessment reports on key issues emerging from international policy debates. Since its establishment in the year 2007, GFEP has developed into an internationally respected mechanism with a proven impact. It successfully completed three major assessments and is currently in the process of finalizing a new one on the contribution of forests to food security and nutrition.  Other initiatives such as the Top 20 Questions for Forestry and Landscapes allow for a more systematic determination of high-priority policy‚Äźrelevant questions for subsequent systematic review. This and similar initiatives potentially produce results on which scientific assessments such as those of the GFEP can build upon. Opportunities exist to further expand such initiatives and use them more systematically to inform policy deliberations about forests.

In this context, it is important to adopt holistic and synergistic approaches across scientific disciplines and institutions, which enable policy learning and engagement by a diverse range of stakeholders. This is exactly what will happen at the upcoming XXIV IUFRO World Congress from 5 to 11 October 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. With more than 1,200 oral presentations and nearly as many poster presentations in five plenary, 19 sub-plenary, and over 170 technical and poster sessions, the width and depth of knowledge and expertise in forest-related sciences will be on full display there. 

However, in order to have the intended impact, scientific output needs to be taken up effectively by policy makers, practitioners and stakeholders. The 14th World Forestry Congress, which will be held in September 2015, which is less than one year after the IUFRO World Congress, will thus provide a unique opportunity to translate the accumulated knowledge into action.

Follow the IUFRO 2014 World Congress at:  

Congress homepage: http://www.iufro2014.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/iufro2014
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/iufro2014

East Kalimantan

FAO Forestry news

Forests and climate-change mitigation conference moves global debate online

Forestry policymakers, forest economists, scientists and researchers from all over the world can now register for an FAO-organized online conference that will focus on how the forest sector can mitigate climate change and the economic costs and benefits involved. One hundred free places are available for each session of the conference, which will take place from 6 to 27 February 2015.

Visit the webpage to learn more about the conference on Economics of climate change mitigation options in the forest sector, to register for a session or to submit a case-study abstract.

Poplar Commission to consider expansion in scope

A comprehensive reform of FAO’s International Poplar Commission (IPC), under way since 2012, has led the IPC’s Executive Committee to propose several changes to the IPC Convention. A key amendment is the expansion of the IPC’s geographic, biological and technical scope to include other genera and species with similar attributes and their possible industrial, energy and environmental applications.
Read more about the IPC Executive Committee’s proposed reforms as well as the full report of its 47th Session (Vancouver, Canada, 20 July 2014). The reforms will be discussed at the IPC’s next session in 2016.

Call for cases of exemplary sustainable forest management

The Forestry team in the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean has launched a second call for nominations of successful sustainable forest management stories in the region. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Uruguay will be involved in selecting exemplary cases for review by national professionals trained in the application of sustainability evaluation methodologies. 
Countries in the region that wish to join the exemplary case network can sign up at the Núcleo de Capacitación email account here.
Read more in the first volume of exemplary cases here: Standing tall: exemplary cases of sustainable forest management in Latin America and the Caribbean

Global news

UN Climate Summit elicits broad-based support to halt deforestation and increase forest restoration

The New York Declaration on Forests signed by a broad base of stakeholders at the UN Climate Summit held in New York on 23 September sets ambitious targets to eliminate the loss of all natural forests and restore 350 million hectares of degraded forest landscapes by 2030. These combined initiatives, which would significantly reduce climate pollution and yield important development benefits to people around the world, have already received pledges of action and financial support.

Read more on the key Summit events attended by FAO Deputy Director-General Natural Resources, Maria Helena Semedo, and read the article in the latest issue of the Clim-FO-L Newsletter (p.4) on "Forest-related outcomes" by FAO delegation member, Susan Braatz, FAO Senior Forestry Officer for Forests and Climate Change.

World Forestry Congress: call for abstracts

The XIV World Forestry Congress will be a key occasion for the world’s foresters and forest supporters to gather, to share their expertise and experience, and to project a new vision for the future of forests and forestry. We’d like you to help define that vision. The WFC Secretariat is therefore inviting abstracts on the central theme of the Congress, “Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future”, and on relevant topics that also align with any of the six Congress sub-themes.  View the abstract submission process in EnglishFrench and Spanish.

Call for side events

The Congress will also welcome side events and parallel events by partners promoting innovative work which reflects the theme Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future. The submission of event proposals opens in December 2014.

UN General Assembly adopts key sustainable development resolution

The adoption by the 68th United Nations General Assembly of Resolution A/68/970 marks another landmark in sustainable development. The proposal of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, containing 17 goals and 169 targets, is the mandate to ensure that "the sustainable development goals should be coherent with and integrated into the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015".

View Resolution A/68/970 and see the references to forests in Goal 6, 6.6 and Goal 15, 15.1, 15.2.

Trees and forest products: supporting a global nutrition imperative

An invitation to inform the draft of a major Framework for Action on nutrition was an opportunity to highlight the contributions of trees and forest products. The Framework, a main outcome document of the November 2014 ICN2, which FAO will host and is co-organizing with WHO and other international partners, is expected to define key global nutrition priorities for the next decade.

FAO and UNEP join forces to promote sustainable ecosystems for food security

A new strategic partnership plan endorsed by the heads of FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) seeks to increase food security by expanding support for ecosystem services. Healthy ecosystems, which provide services ranging from water and food production to soil and climate regulation, are fundamental to food security and the plan’s four specific priorities aim to ensure their integrity. 

Read more on the FAO–UNEP Memorandum of Understanding signed in New York on 24 September by FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, and Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General.

African women and farmers to lead action on food security in drylands

Scaling up sustainable, women-led Arabic gum production and marketing and prioritizing farmer-managed natural regeneration to increase food security and local economic empowerment were the key recommendations of the 2nd Africa Drylands Week. The event saw 150 representatives from 22 countries meet to agree on future action under the theme “Year of agriculture and food security in Africa: the role of sustainable land management”.

Read more in the Final Communiqué of the African Union Commission, FAO and partner-supported 2nd African Drylands Week held in Chad in August 2014, and learn of its many high-level events, presentations and discussions here: Second Africa Drylands Week. Latest developments on the Great Green Wall can be viewed here: news and events.


©UNCCDMr Hama Arba Diallo

We are very sad to report the passing away of Mr Hama Arba Diallo on the night of 30 September. Mr Diallo was the first Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), serving from 1992 to 2007.

A parliamentarian in his country, Burkina Faso, and the mayor of the northeastern town of Dori, Mr Diallo was a great man who showed immense leadership in combating desertification and in the implementation at local level of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative. FAO, in partnership with the European Union, the African Union Commission, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the World Food Programme, had been collaborating with the Dori municipality and communities under his leadership on the restoration of degraded lands in the communal forest of Dori and in many villages.

FAO Forestry extends its sincere condolences to the family of Mr Diallo.  Other tributes can be viewed at the UNCCD website

CIFOR: planting more trees is right!

An opinion piece by an assistant professor at Yale published in the New York Times has been strongly challenged by forestry and climate experts. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), a member of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, convincingly argues that the academic’s position, that the way to save the planet is not to plant trees, is wrong on several levels.

Read the editorial in CIFOR’s Forest News

Upcoming meetings and events


Collaborative Partnership on Forestsevents calendar, including:

Expo 2015



  • Report of the 22nd Session of the Committee on Forestry, 23–26 June 2014: ArabicChineseEnglishFrenchRussian and Spanish
  • Advancing Agroforestry on the policy agenda: a guide for decision-makers - now published in Korean. Available also in the original language: English
  • The contribution of edible insects to food security, livelihoods and the environment - flyer now published in Japanese. View other language versions here: ChineseEnglishFrenchGermanItalianSpanish
  • The youth guide to forests 1st edition. FAO and the Convention on Biological Diversity, and financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency


SOFO 2014: Policy facts and figures

ArabicChineseEnglish, FrenchRussianSpanish



National Geographic, Food by Numbers "Everything we eat adds up"

As part of a year-long collaborative project with FAO, National Geographic  (USA) magazine's September 2014 edition provides facts and figures on edible insectsand their application as human food and animal feed, using data provided by FAO Forestry. View the informative edible insects video with its useful infographics.


  • Silva Mediterranea Newsletter No.18 September: English and French
  • Clim-FO-L Newsletter September 2014. CLIM-FO-L is an electronic newsletter on forests and climate change compiled by FAO and issued monthly. It provides information on recent developments in climate change negotiations, scientific articles, publications and events, among other things.
  • NWFP Update No. 3/14 - a quarterly e-newsletter providing information on the potential of non-wood forest products and their contribution to the sustainable development of the world's forest resources.

FAO Forestry staff interviews 

Jeff Campbell, Manager, Forest and Farm Facility, is interviewed in the September 2014 issue of Farming Matters on "Listening and trust - the basis for working with forest and farm producers"  

Unasylva: a stroll down memory lane

In this occasional series, we feature reprints of extracts from early editions of Unasylva, FAO Forestry’s international journal of forestry and forest industries.

Adapting forests and their management to climate change: an overview

People and livelihoods

"...Richer societies in industrialized countries have the means for dealing with the more immediate effects of climate change and are less prone to suffer in the short term. In contrast, the economic and human welfare impact of climate change can be severe for the many poor communities in developing and least-developed countries that depend on forests for food, fodder, fuelwood, medicines and ecosystem services. Water shortages and unpredictable rainfall, in combination with continued population growth and land degradation, increase pressure on forest ecosystems and their capacity to meet immediate livelihood needs.

The promotion of community forestry in many developing countries may increase local adaptive capacity by putting decisions in the hands of the people who feel the effects of climate change first, and by enhancing the role of traditional knowledge in forest management (see article by Gyampoh et al.).

Even in developed countries, some communities depending on forest-based industries or located in forested landscapes are already affected by climate-related forest disturbance. In Canada, for example, the increased incidence of forest fires in boreal forests endangers population health and safety, and the vast mountain pine beetle outbreak will inevitably result in a major restructuring of the forest-based industrial sector, with consequences for the welfare of local populations (see article by Konkin and Hopkins).

Climate change also affects local revenues from tourism and recreational services when vast areas of dead or dying forests reduce scenic appeal or when sparse snow cover shortens skiing seasons..."

Bernier and D. Schoene

Unasylva No. 231/232

Vol. 60, 2009/1-2

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last updated:  Tuesday, October 28, 2014