Countries from around the globe have gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York for the start of a forum on strategies to help the world’s forests promote social development, improve livelihoods and contribute towards global poverty eradication.
The UN Forum on Forests, which is made up of all the 192 countries that make up the UN’s membership, runs for two weeks and aims to emphasize the role and responsibilities of people who depend on forests at a time when forests are threatened by unsustainable practices and economic crises.
“Forests are the intersection of all aspects of human life – forest history, at its core, is about the changing relationships between people and forests,” said the Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat, Jan McAlpine. “At this session of the Forum, we must listen to these lessons from our natural history, and incorporate the voices of the people into forest policies to build a sustainable future for both forests and people.”
At the Forum, policies and programmes related to forest-dependent communities, land tenure, and other social and cultural aspects of forests will be discussed. Representatives will also take part in the launch of the International Year of Forests on 2 February, aimed at broadening public understanding of the role that healthy forests play around the world.
Forests cover about 31 per cent of Earth’s surface – or just under four billion hectares – according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. An estimated 13 million hectares of the world’s forests are lost every year, mainly as a result of converting forest land to other uses.
More than 60 million people are employed by forest-based industries and the annual value of wood removed from forests is estimated to be over $100 billion.
At least 1.6 billion people directly depend on forests for their livelihoods, the majority of them poor inhabitants of areas next to forests; while an estimated 60 million people, mainly members of indigenous and local communities, live in forests.