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Forests vital resource in sustainable development

Graziano da Silva opens meeting of FAO Committee on Forestry

Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
FAO Director-General addresses FAO Committee on Forestry

24 September 2012, Rome – FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva  today stressed the important role of forestry in sustainable development when he opened a five-day meeting of FAO’s Committee on Forestry (COFO).

He noted that the nexus between forestry and sustainable development was  one of the cross-cutting issues considered at the Rio+20 Conference in June.

The 2012 Edition of FAO’s flagship publication the State of the World’s Forests is accordingly devoted to the role of forests in sustainable development, Graziano da Silva said.

Forests, which cover at least 31 percent of the planet, play a fundamental role in  global and national economies, and in FAO’s mandate to reduce hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty, he said.

"The success of FAO’s work in improving lives will depend very much on how we balance the use and preservation of natural resources,” he stressed. “This includes forests, which play an important role in environmental factors like carbon sequestration, soil and water quality preservation and conserving biodiversity.”

Subsistence and survival cooperation

Some 350 million of the world’s poorest people , including 60 million indigenous people, depend on forests for their daily subsistence and long-term survival.

But in many countries “deforestation, forest degradation and inadequate agricultural practices are contributing to significant losses of soil each year”, he noted.

“Preserving our soil is necessary to sustain life on the planet and yet the slow process of desertification has not captured as much attention as it merits, ” he said.

Sustainable agriculture and forestry can reverse soil degradation and help to combat desertification. “We need to make sure that soil protection and the fight against desertification are placed high on the international agenda,” he declared.

“We will need to work together with governments, civil society and the private sector to maximize the role that forests and wooded land will play in food security in the future,” he added.  “It will take a collective effort, including of all our partners within and beyond the UN system, to manage the world’s forests in a sustainable way.”

In his statement, the Director-General also mentioned the possibility of ensuring a more regular monitoring of forest cover, an idea that was also discussed with ministers present at the opening ceremony.

Afforestation in Bangladesh

As one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries, Bangladesh has launched a national plan to protect the country from the adverse effects of climate change and ensure its continued economic development, said Environment and Forests Minister Mohammed Hassan Mahmoud, the keynote  speaker at the meeting. The plan is to create 20 percent forest cover in the country by 2021 through afforestation in general and coastal afforestation in particular, he added.

Brazil’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said a well-developed forest-based economy must be a priority in Brazil, which has the world’s largest tropical forest covering over 60 percent of its territory. Efforts to combat deforestation in the country are starting to yield good results and activities on the ground have helped to reduce deforestation in the legally-defined Brazilian Amazon area by almost 77 percent between 2004 and 2011, she said.

“Public-private partnerships are at the core of a new policy for managing of Brazilian public forests representing more than 300 million hectares,” she noted.  At the Rio+20 Conference, the international community had agreed that the challenges of development should be addressed through the paradigm of sustainability in its economic, social and environmental, aspects, she added.

Alongside the Ministers of Brazil, Bangladesh and South Africa, other delegates present on the podium at COFO’s inaugural session included Sven Alkalaj, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

World Forestry Congress Agreement

Graziano da Silva and Pieter Willem Mulder, South African Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Water, later signed a Cooperation Agreement allowing FAO and South Africa to begin preparations for the 14th World Forestry Congress to be held in September 2015 in Durban.

"By 2015 we expect that the Congress will present an opportunity for the global forestry community to raise awareness and analysis of key issues that will face the sector then. We will be pleased if the outcome will include new ways to address technical, scientific and policy actions within the forestry sector, ” Mulder said.