Korea Forest Service
Minister Byeong-Am Choi of the Korea Forest Service
In the Republic of Korea, forests have always been intimately interwoven with people’s lives and thus have gone through many changes as the nation has had a turbulent history. First of all, the government’s reforestation programme in the 1960s evolved into a concerted, nationwide effort in 1970 and turned barren mountains into lush green forests, earning the country a global reputation as a successful example of restoring forests after decades of occupation and war. When our country suffered a financial crisis in the late 1990s, forests provided laid-off people with jobs through public forestry projects. The discovery of this new role of forests led the government to shift the focus of forest policy to more active forest management in order to realize the benefits of forests. Since the start of the 21st century, in response the growing demand for a healthier environment, the government has been providing ecosystem services to the public by tapping well-managed forest resources, including places of respite, and recreational and environmental education opportunities.
The Republic of Korea was selected as the host of the XV World Forestry Congress to be held in 2022, thanks largely to its success story in reforestation and its continued commitment to promoting international cooperation in the forest sector. It is the first time the Congress has convened in the Asia-Pacific region since it was held in Indonesia 43 years ago.
The World Forestry Congress is the most influential conference in forestry, serving as the global platform for members of the international community to come together and issue recommendations and declarations on major forest issues. The XV World Forestry Congress in 2022 will set the stage for a timely discussion of how forests can help address and adapt to climate change, combat desertification, preserve biodiversity, and resolve other global environmental issues. At the same time, the coming global gathering will provide a great opportunity to build cross-border cooperation and partnerships in forestry. Additionally, Korea’s economic development model and success story in reforestation will offer valuable lessons to those countries now in similar circumstances to what our country has gone through in the past.
The theme of the XV World Forestry Congress is “Building a Green, Healthy and Resilient Future with Forests.” As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the world, it is necessary, indeed, to discuss forests in relation to what role they can play in creating a green, healthy future. The Republic of Korea cordially invites you to have productive discussions at the Congress about the role of the forest sector in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and in implementing international conventions on forestry and the environment.
Seoul Metropolitan City
Mayor of Seoul Oh Se-hoon
It is a great honor to host the XV World Forestry Congress (WFC 2021) in Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea. Currently, the world is faced with a host of challenges such as climate change and natural disasters arising from increased carbon dioxide, particulate matter containing harmful substances, and the new pandemic called COVID-19. WFC 2021 will serve as a significant venue to revisit the role and importance of forests in addressing these issues.
As recently as 50 years ago, most forests in Seoul were devastated by war, exploitation, and the reckless use of trees as fuel. However, a focused drive to reforest the nation that began in the 1960s has resulted in the lush forests that we see today. In 1971, Korea adopted the green belt scheme as part of its aggressive forest policy to protect the environment and prevent its rapid industrialization from causing urban sprawl. It has been no easy task to preserve urban forests in the face of soaring land value and development pressure as a result of fast economic growth, but the country has kept such pressure at bay by reminding itself that forests are places of healing and recreation and they are an invaluable asset to be passed on to future generations.
These efforts have transformed Seoul into an attractive city that boasts a healthy and beautiful environment. If you look around the world, it is quite rare for a megalopolis with a population of over ten million to have a combination of green, towering mountains on its boundaries, hills and valleys in its urban centers, and a vast river that flows through its center.
Based on the principle of integrity and inclusion, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) strives to ensure that both the current and future generations can enjoy the benefits offered by forests. We have used the city’s abundant forestry resources to expand personalized leisure facilities that provide citizens with healing experiences. We have also worked vigorously to increase urban forests as part of our welfare services so that people in all districts have access to lush green forests where they can enjoy a clean and refreshing breeze.
In this age of coronavirus and climate change, the value and benefits of forests are more important than ever before. I hope that the congress will serve as an opportunity to discuss how to use forests to improve the quality of life and explore the limitless potential of forests to be used in responding to climate change, preserving biodiversity, and achieving carbon neutrality. The SMG will also join the international community in its commitment to building a green, healthy, and resilient future with forests and meeting the forestry-related SDGs.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo
Since 1926, the World Forestry Congress has provided a place for the global forest community to gather and discuss emerging forest issues and identify solutions. But never before in the history of the Congress have we found ourselves in the position we are in today. In addition to facing numerous existing challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to re-evaluate our plans and priorities and to think seriously about our new future.
As revealed by the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020, although the rate of forest loss is decreasing, continued efforts are still required to halt deforestation and increase forest cover. But even reversing forest loss will not be enough. Keeping our eye also on the post-pandemic period, we must assess how we can rebuild more resilient and responsive economies. We are convinced that forests must play a central role in a better and greener future.
In moving forward, we have an opportunity to strengthen intersectoral collaboration, particularly between the agriculture and forest sectors, by promoting sustainable landscape approaches. Asia has accumulated considerable knowledge and developed rich practices in working across landscapes and has many lessons to share with the global community on how to move from deforestation and forest degradation to ecosystem restoration. Priority must be given to bolstering rural livelihoods and creating green jobs. We must also continue championing sustainable wood value chains as the economic foundation of sustainable forest management. We need to strengthen sustainable wildlife management as a means to prevent infectious diseases from spreading from wild mammals to humans in the future. We should create a new landscape – of ideas, sustainable practices, equality and prosperity – as we “build back better” in the post-COVID-19 era.
In these times, more than ever, we need to support future generations of foresters. Safeguarding forests and our future requires investment in education programmes, from preschool to tertiary, and support for young forest professionals. The generations to come must understand that, if we care about forests, forest will care for us.
As a global community, we stand ready at this historic time to face the challenges and to come together to work with all partners and stakeholders for forests and our future. The upcoming XV World Forestry Congress, to be hosted by the Republic of Korea, gives us a unique opportunity to do this.
XV World Forestry Congress Secretariat
Secretary-General Eunsik Park and Associate Secretary-General Peter Csoka
The year 2022 is an important milestone for global forestry, making the XV World Forestry Congress a crucial event. A mere ten years remain for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving its Sustainable Development Goals, as
well as the goals and targets of the UN Strategic Plan for Forests. The progress made to date is laudable but insufficient, and we must strengthen efforts and find new ways to achieve humanity’s most ambitious goals. Congress participants will
have a golden opportunity to bring forests into focus in this UN Decade of Action and to headline sustainable forest management as an important means for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change
and the post-2020 Biodiversity Framework. Moreover, the Congress can advise on how to restore millions of hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes in the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which starts in 2021.
In addition to these pressing tasks, humanity is now facing the unprecedented threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. This presents the World Forestry Congress Secretariat with a new challenge: to organize a congress that not only responds to existing issues but which can also help chart the way to a greener, healthier and more prosperous future. Forests have never been more important – for enriching our daily lives, assisting in economic recovery, and helping forge a new relationship between humans and nature.
We invite all stakeholders – forest owners, practitioners, businesses, government officials, scientists, international and civil-society organizations, youth and all others who work with or care about forests – to join this global gathering. Bring your ideas, insights, expertise and perspectives, and contribute to debate on how to create a new future with forests and to “build back better”! The host country, the Republic of Korea, stands ready to share its experiences and expertise in forestry; present its reforestation programmes and their results; demonstrate how it is using information and communications technologies in forest management; explain how its forest resources provide green amenities for the public; and showcase its lush forests preserved as cultural resources.
In the midst of the pandemic, the decision to attend a global event such as the XV World Forestry Congress is undoubtedly more challenging than ever. The organizers guarantee that every effort will be made to protect the health of participants. Full use will be made of the Republic of Korea’s knowhow, which it has accumulated through years of experience in hosting international events, and its capacity to implement effective COVID-19 preventive measures. To hold a safe and enjoyable Congress, physical spaces – including convention halls and amenity areas – will be organized according to new pandemic-era norms. Information and communication platforms will be provided to enable participants to safely join sessions, either on location or at a distance.
We look forward to seeing you at the XV World Forestry Congress!