FAO at UNFF18: towards a nexus approach for sustainable forest management
The 18th Session of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF18) convened from UN headquarters in New York from 8 to 12 May, where FAO brought forward messages of innovation, policy coherence, and investment incentives to help drive forward forest conservation, restoration and sustainable use pathways.
In its 18th Session, the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF18) convened from UN headquarters in New York from 8 to 12 May, with the FAO delegation at UNFF18 led by Zhimin Wu, Director of the FAO Forestry Division and Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF).
FAO and the CPF – an inter-agency partnership of 16 international organizations, institutions and secretariats working on substantial programmes and initiatives around forests, and which is housed at FAO – actively contributed to UNFF18 discussions and deliberations. These included taking stock of the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030 and outlining key interlinkages between its Global Forest Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under review at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 2023 (HLPF) taking place this year in July.
With the midterm review of the International Arrangement on Forests approaching in 2024, UNFF18 also considered the assessments and activities in preparation for review in the ten areas outlined in ECOSOC resolution 2022/17.
UNFF18 also revisited the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework targets and discussed other emerging issues at the crossroads of forest conservation, restoration, development, and sustainable use priorities and trade-offs.
Key biodiversity considerations in forest management and ecosystem restoration
Touching on the implementation of, and progress on, the UN Strategic Plan on Forests 2017-2030 (UNSPF) Zhimin Wu spoke on sustainable forest management as pivotal for both a healthy planet and for prosperous societies.
“We are still facing many challenges in our journey toward the achievement of the global forest goals and related SDGs by 2030, including the 3 percent increase of global forest cover,” Wu said, referring to this as an ambitious, yet pertinent goal (Global Forest Goal 1, Target 1) that responds to the alarming rates of loss of forest cover we are seeing.
From working to increase the area of sustainably managed forests to restoring degraded ecosystems, FAO at UNFF18 also underscored the interlinkages of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) targets with FAO’s mandate on forestry and transforming agrifood systems.
Forestry, a pinnacle of the agrifood systems transformation FAO is calling for, is highly relevant for several GBF targets, including those around ecosystem restoration, protected areas and conservation measures, impacts on climate change on biodiversity, and benefits from green cities and spaces to mainstream the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity for healthy communities and the planet.
Given that the UNSPF and the GBF frameworks are complementary, “their joint or respective implementation can synergistically contribute to their goals and targets,” Zhimin Wu said at a side event organized by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on the interlinkages between the UNSPF and GBF frameworks to leverage impact at the national level.
Leveraging the power of data, technology and innovation for sustainable forest management
Moving from planning to action calls for means of implementation that help meet forest finance needs to at least triple by 2030 to meet climate, biodiversity and land degradation neutrality targets.
“Shifts in policies are needed to divert financial flows away from actions that harm forests and to incentivize investments in conservation, restoration and sustainable use,” FAO Senior Forestry Officer Malgorzata Buszko-Briggs said, pointing to the need to come together with partners to enable the right policy mix and fostering the correct incentives for integrated forest management, as outlined in the latest ‘State of the World’s Forests 2022’ report.
To prevent further loss of forest to deforestation, insect pests and diseases, and particularly wild forest fires, FAO also called for integrated and innovative legal, policy, and institutional arrangements, informed by technologies, such as big data, cloud technologies, and appropriate use of artificial intelligence. To this end, FAO announced that the theme of the International Day of Forests 2024 will be ‘forests and innovation’.
In his capacity as CPF Chair, Zhimin Wu also highlighted the key contributions of the CPF, its members and the UN system, including the importance of bringing forests into the political agendas on climate, biodiversity and agriculture and socioeconomic development, driven by scientific and technical evidence. At a UNFF18 side event on working for a more efficient and impactful CPF, Wu also spoke of the Partnership’s importance in working together to enhance the delivery of the Global Forest Goals. “Forests are our original and forests are our future,” he said.
FAO also brought to UNFF18 the latest developments in improving forest monitoring, assessment and reporting, especially within the context of preparations for the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2025, which aims to collect, analyze and disseminate information on the world’s forests resources and their condition, management and uses.
Building on these and other efforts, FAO has been working together with partners on forest-related data collection and reporting, including the co-leading of a Joint Initiative on Streamlining Global Forest-related Reporting, under the umbrella of the CPF’s work, Theresa Loeffler, FAO Associate Forestry Officer, explained.
Forests, energy and livelihoods: towards reducing hunger and poverty, safeguarding biodiversity and taking critical climate action
FAO also helped raise awareness around the vital contributions of forests to sustainable development, with investments and actions in SDG13 reverberating across the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at large. This message was echoed by the Director of the FAO Forestry Division and CPF Chair in a side event aimed at understanding the innate value of forests and trees and their direct linkages with human health and wellbeing.
“Forests are our allies in combatting climate change and in creating healthy communities and a health future,” Wu said.
The interconnectivity between forests, people and planet was also outlined as part of FAO’s intervention in a UNFF18 panel discussion on forests, energy and livelihoods. Zhimin Wu spoke to the importance of leveraging the forest-energy-livelihoods nexus, as it enables and accelerates progress across many SDGs, notably SDG1 on poverty reduction and SDG2 on hunger eradication.
“Integrated policy approaches call for innovate ways to work together, using better data for informed decisions,” he said, adding that forests represent food security, income-generating opportunities, and sources of fuel, shelter and medicine. This is why, Wu explained, FAO prioritizes working on halting deforestation, enhancing resilience, mainstreaming biodiversity and supporting sustainable forest-based livelihoods – efforts informed by reliable data, statistics and analytics.
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