Opening the eleventh session of the United Nations Forum on Forests today, the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, today called on delegates to work on agreeing a strengthened International Arrangement on Forests, which balanced ambition and practicality.
“A meaningful decision on strengthening the International Arrangement on Forests will put us on a path towards a greener economy and a more equitable and sustainable future for all,” said Mr. Eliasson said in remarks to the Forum, which is holding its current session in New York through 15 May.
“Realizing the full potential of the future arrangement will require all of us to play a role. We must all work to mobilize tangible and coordinated support, across sectors, and at all levels.”
He stressed the vital importance of the current year to providing development and life in dignity for all and explained how agreeing a new Arrangement on Forests fit in with work to adopt a universal and transformative post-2015 agenda and set of sustainable development goals, to reach a universal and meaningful agreement on climate change, and to agree on a financing framework for the future development agenda.
“In shaping the International Arrangement on Forests beyond 2015, it will be important to define ways in which the future arrangement will advance forest-related sustainable development goals and targets,” Mr. Eliasson said. “We must at the same time address the challenges of poverty eradication and climate change.”
A more relevant and effective Arrangement to more sustainably manage forests was important because of the huge number of the world’s people – around 1.6 billion, he said – who depend to some degree on forests for food, shelter and income, as well as because some of the poorest and most vulnerable, including some 60 million indigenous people, rely on forests for subsistence and survival.
“The post-2015 agenda calls on us to leave no-one behind,” Mr. Eliasson said. “The sustainable management of forests – in partnership with those who live in the forest regions – will be critical for meeting our ambition to eradicate poverty in all its forms.”
And the fight to keep global temperature rises to below two degrees Celsius would be impossible without serious efforts on forest preservation, he stressed.
“Three-fourths of freshwater comes from forested catchments,” he said. “Forests build resilience. Forests provide renewable energy. And forests offer effective and cost-competitive natural carbon capture and storage.”
He underlined the link between delivering on a global commitment to forests and ambition on financing and implementation and looked forward to an Accord emerging from the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in July this year.
“The Addis Accord should help put us on a path to meet forest financing needs,” he said, calling also for the mainstreaming of the forest sector into sustainable development at all levels and in all sectors, and for establishment of governance systems to address destructive practices and illegal deforestation.
Mr. Eliasson said indigenous and local communities would be vital to any new Arrangement because of the important, traditional forest-related knowledge they possess, while the role of women as forest managers, stewards and agents of change needed also to be properly recognized.
“We need equitable sharing of benefits from forests and forest products,” he said. “We also need to ensure payments for forest ecosystem services, not rewarded, not remunerated by markets.”
He saw a stronger International Arrangement on Forests providing the necessary roadmap to meeting such challenges and called on the Forum to build on the momentum and opportunity offered by the current year.
“Let us show the international community that it is time to get serious about forests,” he urged. “This pursuit is fundamentally about respect for everything living and for the necessary balance between Man and Nature.”