UN forum to review effectiveness of global accord on forests

13 May 2005

The United Nations panel coordinating global forestry issues will meet next week in New York to review of the status of a five-year-old international accord to promote management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end.

The UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) will review the effectiveness of the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF) and deliberate on next steps at its fifth session, which will begin Monday and run through 27 May. The Forum was established in 2000 and is the IAF's convening body. More than 300 government officials, including 40 ministers responsible for forests are expected to attend the meeting.

The meeting's guiding document will be Secretary-General Kofi Annan's latest report, which reveals that despite substantial progress in the formulation and implementation of national forest policies, deforestation and forest degradation continue at an alarming rate. He stresses the critical role of forests in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), noting that close to 1.6 billion people depend to varying degrees on forests for their livelihoods.

"The alarming rate of deforestation continues to warrant international attention and there is a need to renew the pledge to combat deforestation and restore forest functions (such as production, protection and conservation) at the landscape level, by rehabilitating degraded lands with, inter alia, forest plantations, and to improve the livelihoods of poor people living in and around forests worldwide as a priority," the report says.

2004 Nobel Laureate and lifelong forest activist Wangari Maathai is set to address the Forum on the future of the IAF on Tuesday. In her homeland in 1977 the Kenyan-born Ms. Maathai founded the Green Belt movement, which has planted more than 10 million trees to prevent soil erosion and provide firewood for cooking fires. A panel discussion entitled "Asia-Pacific Day," devoted to regional realities, will be held on 18 May.

Another highlight of the session will be a two-day high-level ministerial segment and policy dialogue with heads of international organizations. Two roundtable panels on "restoring the world's forests" and on "forest law and governance for sustainability" will also take place during the high-level segment.