UN meeting pledges international cooperation to curb forest fires

15 March 2005

With an average of 400 million to 500 million hectares burning each year from forest fires around the world, a United Nations ministerial meeting has pledged intensified international cooperation to address the problem, including its root causes.

With an average of 400 million to 500 million hectares burning each year from forest fires around the world, a United Nations ministerial meeting has pledged intensified international cooperation to address the problem, including its root causes.

“While fire is an important land management tool, severe wildland fires have catastrophic effects,” UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf told the third Ministerial Meeting on Forests meeting this week in Rome. “Lives are lost, livelihoods imperilled, local economies devastated and the environment seriously degraded.”

As well as international cooperation on fires and combating deforestation, the 400 representatives from Member States, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector are discussing the role of forests in rehabilitation after December’s devastating Indian Ocean tsunami and in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Forests contribute directly to achieving two of the MDGs – a list of targets set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000 to drastically cut a host of social and economic ills – namely reducing extreme poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability.

More than 9 million hectares of forests are lost globally each year, while forests provide multiple economic, environmental, social and cultural functions. They help to conserve biodiversity, mitigate climate change, provide clean water and energy, enhance soil fertility and support livelihoods.

On tsunami damage, the ministers called for a comprehensive assessment of wood needs for reconstruction to better respond to the emerging challenges of rehabilitating damaged forests, salvaging wood and meeting the immediate needs for reconstructing piers, bridges, boats and houses as well as for fuel.

 

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