It is our pleasure to send you the first edition of inFO news for 2013 and the first in its new format. The aim of inFO news is to introduce some of the work of FAO Forestry that we think will be of interest to the global forestry community. We hope you enjoy the new format and look forward to receiving your feedback. – The inFO news team
Editorial: 21 March, the International Day of Forests: a 42-year journey
In the architecture of the United Nations’ international days there was a notable gap: forests. Despite covering 31 percent of the world’s surface and providing humankind with innumerable valuable services and goods, they were absent from the global calendar. It was time for their contributions to be recognized officially ...
The push for such official recognition began in 1971, with a proposal made by the European Confederation of Agriculture to establish a World Forestry Day. Although later supported by the FAO Conference, this bold move was never fully implemented at the global level. Nevertheless, 40 countries decided to informally recognize 21 March as World Forest Day and have been celebrating it annually ever since.
In 2010, the 20th Session of the FAO Committee on Forestry suggested that consideration be given to the establishment of a forest day. This proposal enjoyed the support of the 14-member Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), including through a formal recommendation made by the 9th session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) in February 2011 to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). In June–July 2011, the 37th Session of the FAO Conference voiced its support for the establishment of an International Day of Forests and consequently the FAO Director-General conveyed the Conference’s position to ECOSOC.
Unfortunately the General Assembly (UNGA) could not consider the issue of the International Day in 2011, but the interest of the international community did not fade away. A pivotal role was played by Algeria, which, as chair of the Group of 77 and China in New York, took the initiative in 2012 to submit a draft resolution to the UNGA. On 21 December 2012, forestry history was made with the adoption of the resolution that proclaimed 21 March as the International Day of Forests.
The UNGA resolution assigned responsibility for coordinating global International Day of Forests activities to the UNFF, supported by FAO and in collaboration with CPF members. For its part, FAO has since been informing the heads of forestry of its member countries about the day and developing communication products to support the celebration, including a dedicated website, a logo and a short video that has been uploaded to YouTube and will be aired by several international TV channels. At the country level, material supporting International Day of Forests activities is being developed, while FAO’s partners are also producing information packs on their specific contributions. FAO will help celebrate the day at the 3rd Mediterranean Forest Week, which will take place in Tiemcen, Algeria, on 17–21 March, and other key events will also be held on 21 March at FAO headquarters in Rome and the United Nations in Geneva.
My thanks go to all those who have supported this initiative, whose time has more than come. I invite you to celebrate the very first International Day of Forests on 21 March! Follow news related to the IDF at our website.
Assistant Director-General, FAO Forestry Department
In Memoriam: Michelle Gauthier, FAO Forestry Officer
It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing last week of our dear colleague, Michelle Gauthier, who championed urban forestry and agroforestry as important means for improving the livelihoods of millions of peoples ...
“Michelle Gauthier loved trees. She dedicated her professional life to trees: for food and nutrition security, for energy, for making greener cities, for better watershed management, for reducing pollution. The question was always: how can trees make life better?” Julien Custot, FAO, February 2013.
“We do not know many people like Michelle with such outstanding planetary experience on trees outside forests, broad understanding of their multiple benefits to people and love for them. She succeeded in giving justice to this important component of forestry and excelled in networking with specialists around the world. In losing Michelle, FAO lost a confirmed expert and trees outside forests lost an indisputable advocate.” Mohamed Saket, February 2013
Michelle joined FAO in January 1994 as an Associate Professional Officer in the Community Forestry Unit of the Forestry Department. In the same year she was the focal point for the West Africa team in the Forest, Trees and People Programme. Her strong commitment and conviction about doing the right thing for people established this team as a promoter of rights for forest and tree-dependent communities in the region. She was also the coordinator of the team that developed the Community Forestry and Conflict Management Programme, overcoming tremendous difficulties and challenges to set up, in 1995, FAO’s first email conference connecting universities, technicians, user-group federations, Forest Trees and People Programme facilitators and their networks. She then became part of the Forest Assessment, Management and Conservation Division, where she was responsible for the agroforestry and urban and peri-urban forestry programmes, areas of work in which she believed passionately. Michelle was a respected professional in these fields and she worked tirelessly to promote them, including through FAO interdepartmental working groups and regional and global organizations and networks. She was greatly appreciated and admired by her colleagues at FAO and by experts and practitioners globally for her experience, expert contributions, commitment, analytical skills and cross-sectoral vision. A recent interview with UN Radio Information provides a glimpse of her commitment.
Michelle was an advocate of the benefits of agroforestry for the poor, and she focused much of her efforts on furthering the acceptance of agroforestry at the local level and in national policies. She realized that the wealth of valuable information and knowledge in this field needed to be captured, and recently commissioned two publications that will help mainstream sustainable agroforestry worldwide. Advancing agroforestry on the policy agenda – a guide for decision-makers and Towards the assessment of trees outside forests. An online learning event that she co-organized in her last weeks can be found here.
Michelle also had a strong role in the FAO Food for the Cities Programme, based on her recognition of the fundamental importance of urban–rural linkages in energy, forestry and nutrition and other crosscutting issues. A recent interview on the greening of urban areas can be seen here.
Michelle will be remembered by her colleagues and friends as a dedicated professional with a warm smile, who, through her perseverance, passion and energy, and frank and direct statements, made an important contribution to the lives of many and helped gain greater acceptance of the agroforestry paradigm within development circles. The passion and commitment that she had for her work was matched by her commitment and loyalty to her friends and working teams. She will also be remembered as a loving mother to Lin Wan, her daughter. A farewell ceremony to honour Michelle’s memory and life took place on Friday, 22 February, at the Campo Verano cemetery in Rome.
“Life is so capricious. The last time I saw Michelle, nothing told me that there would be so sudden an end to her genuine and sunny smile. It is always so difficult to come to terms with the fact that people who mean so much to us are there one moment and the next they are gone. Adieu Michelle, rest in eternal peace.” Erasmus Moyo, FAO, February 2013
Global plan to conserve forest genetic resources recommended
At its 2nd session, from 23–25 January 2013, the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Forest Genetic Resources recommended that the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture develop a global action plan for the conservation and sustainable use of forest genetic resources as a follow-up to The State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources, to be published soon. Read more
Good progress on INC-Forests
Good progress was made in Antalya at the first meeting of the Third Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Legally Binding Agreement on Forests in Europe; the second meeting of this session will be held in St Petersburg in April and negotiations will be concluded at the Fourth Session in Warsaw in June. Some aspects, such as whether the agreement will come under the UN umbrella, are still to be decided.Read more
Turning learning online: Agroforestry for Food Security and Climate Change webinar
An online learning event in February on agroforestry for food security and climate change, co-organized by FAO’s Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture, helped exchange knowledge on the role of agroforestry in food security in the face of climate change. It generated recommendations for agroforestry policymakers using the newly published Advancing agroforestry on the policy agenda – a guide for decision-makers and provided inputs to the conference on forests for food security and nutrition, to be held in Rome this May. Read more
65 years of joint UNECE-FAO work on forests and timber
65 years of joint forest activities between FAO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe were celebrated last December with the signing of a Partnership Agreement. This agreement recognizes the need for a coordinated response to the challenges of climate change, biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management and will guide cooperation of FAO and UNECE into the future. Read more
Integrated food production systems recommended at agro-environmental workshop
A project workshop in Brazil on family farming in Latin America and the Caribbean has recommended the integration of food production systems – crops, cattle and forests – and the revision of public policies to support this. Governments, the private sector and civil society discussed the contributions of family farms and the many benefits for forests and people of agro-environmental practices. Read more
Upcoming meetings and events
Third Mediterranean Forest Week, Tlemcen, Algeria, 17–21 March 2013 and celebration of the International Day of Forests
Mediterranean Forest Week (MFW) is a platform to promote dialogue between the Mediterranean forest research community, policymakers and other stakeholders. Among other things, this year’s MFW, in Algeria, will celebrate the first International Day of Forests. A parallel event to mark the day will be held at FAO HQ involving the Director-General and members of the Rome-based diplomatic community. Read more
FAO HQ Rome celebrates the International Day of Forests - 21 March
FAO Forestry is organizing an event at FAO HQ in Rome involving FAO’s Director-General, permanent representatives to FAO, government officials and FAO senior officers. The event, on forests and landscapes, will highlight the multisectoral value of forests and present two new publications: Forests and Water: International Momentum and Action and Towards the Assessment of Trees Outside Forests. Read more
International Day of Forests, United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, 21 MarchThe UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section together with the United Nations Office in Geneva is organizing a high-level policy talk on the contribution of forests to sustainability and development. Read more