Experts emphasize forests' contribution to the MDGs
FAO committed to helping realize development goals
25 January 2005, Rome - Forests contribute directly to reducing extreme poverty and hunger and ensuring environmental sustainability, two of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a panel of forestry experts invited to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has concluded.
The panel highlighted the significant contribution of forests and trees outside forests to the MDGs, emphasizing that sustainable forest management and sustainable development are closely linked, as recognized at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002.
Forests' contributions to achieve the MDGs
"Forest products can contribute directly to the goal of reducing poverty and hunger by providing cash income, jobs, and consumption goods for poor families," said Dr. David Kaimowitz, Director-General of the Center for International Forestry Research, who chaired the meeting.
The livelihoods of the approximately 240 million of the world's poor that live in forested areas of developing countries depend on the protection and, in many cases, the rehabilitation of these forests. Poor people's agricultural activities also benefit from the role of forests and trees through contributions to land productivity, enhancing crop and livestock production, and providing genetic resources, among other services.
"The industrial forest sector also plays an important economic role globally," said Dr. Kaimowitz. "It accounts for about three percent of global trade and one percent of global direct capital investments. And an estimated 12.9 million people are employed in the sector."
The panel recognized forests' contribution to environmental sustainability by providing a range of environmental services and by furnishing renewable wood and non-wood products, many substitutes for which are not renewable or as environmentally friendly. Widely recognized environmental functions of forests include mitigating climate change, conserving biological diversity, maintaining clean and reliable water resources, sustaining and enhancing land productivity, protecting coastal and marine resources and enhancing urban environments.
Key roles for FAO
Several roles that FAO can play to assist countries' efforts to achieve the MDGs were identified. And it was recommended that FAO assist countries to carry out analyses of the forest-poverty links in their national context, to increase the visibility of the forest sector in their Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and other sustainable development plans, and to reflect poverty reduction and food security adequately in their national forest programmes.
The panel recognized the key role that FAO can play in raising the profile and increasing awareness of the links between forests and the MDGs and in enhancing regional and sub-regional cooperation in this area.
In promoting the achievement of the MDGs, it was recommended that FAO continue to support countries' efforts to enhance participatory processes in the forest sector as well as to encourage corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the private forestry sector.
Sustained international commitment to the MDGs
The panel's views come at a time when international attention and national efforts are focused on efforts to achieve the goals. FAO is currently carrying out a major review of its activities aimed at ensuring maximum support to achieving the MDGs.
The Ministerial Meeting on Forests and FAO's Committee on Forestry, both to be held in Rome in March, are expected to help raise additional international awareness of the role of forests in sustainable development and to identify actions to help realize forests' potential contribution to the realization of the MDGs.
Heads of State and other high level government officials will gather at the United Nations in New York in September in a high level segment of the General Assembly to review progress in implementation of the UN Millennium Declaration and the MDGs.
"Forests not only make significant contributions to sustainable development, but failure to achieve environmental stability - including through sustainable forest management - will undermine social and economic development goals. FAO is fully committed to helping countries realize the potential contributions of forests to their national development goals," said Hosny El Lakany, Assistant Director-General, FAO Forestry Department.
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