Despite Role for Planet, Humankind, Forests Undervalued, Inadequately Funded, Speakers Say, As Forum Concludes Second Day of Session

Forests and their hidden harvest of products, ecosystems and services � critical to the survival of the planet and its people � remained woefully underfunded and undervalued, even as States forged ahead to meet other environmental and climate goals, the United Nations Forum on Forests heard on the second day of its annual session.

In several interactive panel discussions, experts tackled topics ranging from the relationship between forests and water conservation, to the role of forests in building sustainable and resilient societies, to best practices for raising awareness about the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017 2030. Many delegates praised the strategic plan and its clear target of increasing global forest area by 3 per cent � an area as large as France � by 2030, while also sharing national experiences and posing questions.

Panellist Michael Jenkins, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United States-based organization Forest Trends, warned participants that forests � the infrastructure of the planet � remained widely undervalued in economies. Among other things, they played a key role in preserving biodiversity, sequestering carbon, conserving soil and ensuring that long-held human spiritual values endured. Noting that an acre of soy bean crops was seen as more valuable than an acre of forest, he declared: If we cannot flip this equation, we are not going to win this war. Some 1.6 billion people depended on forests, which could also help lift communities out of extreme poverty. Governments were currently well positioned to integrate forest ecosystem services into their national accounting systems, he said, urging States, the private sector and others to embark on bold, sustainable, progressive forest-related investments.

Hiroto Mitsugi, Chair of the Collaborative Partnership Forum, briefed the subsidiary body on the outcome of the International Conference Working Across Sectors to Halt Deforestation and Increase Forest Area, held in February. The meeting had sought to promote dialogue and information-sharing between countries, sector leaders and other experts, related to Sustainable Development Goal 15 on halting deforestation, restoring degraded forests and increasing forest cover by 3 per cent by 2030. Among the recommendations emanating from the Conference was the need to empower forest-dwellers; facilitate forest-related investment; strengthen relevant capacity-building and education initiatives; approach landscape management in an integrated way that considered climate change threats; support forest-smart policies and governance; protect local and customary land rights; and enable bank lending to benefit sustainable land use practices.

Following that first panel of the day, speakers took the floor to spotlight national efforts to halt deforestation, increase forest cover and address other issues related to the risks posed by climate change. Many agreed with the panellists that forests and their ecosystems were not adequately valued despite their critical role for both the planet and humankind.

The representative of India, noting that his country had already registered a 1 per cent increase in its overall forest cover, voiced support for the Forum's efforts to empower forest-dwellers and youth and support countries' efforts to halt and reverse forest degradation. The representative of the European Union, echoing those sentiments, also welcomed efforts to promote sustainable value chains in forestry, remove harmful subsidies and implement the United Nations strategic plan for forests.

The representative of the Congo was among speakers describing their forests � and the role they played in their people's lives � in detail. In that regard, she noted that the forests of the 250-million-hectare Congo Basin spanned from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Cameroon, Gabon, Angola and her own country, even reaching as far as Rwanda and the United Republic of Tanzania. The Basin represented one fifth of the world's remaining tropical forests, she said.

The Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 9 May, to continue its work.

Panel I

This morning, the Forum held two panel discussions, the first of which focused on the theme The contribution of forests to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies. It featured the following panellists: Hiroto Mitsugi, Chair of the Collaborative Partnership Forum; Meine van Noordwijk, Co-Chair of the Global Forest Expert Panel assessment on forests and water of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations; David Ellison, Expert at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the European Forest Institute, Finland; and Michael Jenkins, President and Chief Executive Officer of Forest Trends, United States. David Ganz, Executive Director of the Centre for People and Forests, served as lead discussant.

Mr. MITSUGI, opening the discussion, outlined the main outcomes of the International Conference Working Across Sectors to Halt Deforestation and Increase Forest Area, co-hosted by the Collaborative Partnership Forum and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in February. The meeting had sought to promote dialogue and information-sharing among countries, sector leaders and other experts, related to Sustainable Development Goal 15 on halting deforestation, restoring degraded forests and increasing forest cover by 3 per cent by 2030. Among the recommendations emanating from the Conference was the need to empower forest-dwellers; facilitate forest-related investment; provide enabling frameworks for stronger sustainable forest management; strengthen relevant capacity-building and education initiatives; approach landscape management in an integrated way that took into account climate change threats; support forest-smart policies and governance; protect local and customary land rights; and enable bank lending to benefit sustainable land use practices.

Mr. VAN NOORDWIJK presented an overview on the Global Forest Expert Panel's assessment on forests and water, whose full report would be submitted to the Economic and Social Council's high-level political forum in July. The report studied the relationships between forests and the planet's water, ultimately seeking to answer three questions: Did forests matter; who was responsible for forests and what should be done; and how relevant progress could be measured. Much attention had been paid in recent years to relevant social and ecological systems, including the rights of peoples to forest lands and water resources. Recent conversations about atmospheric recycling had led to a more holistic view that took climate change into account. Noting that water was not just one single Sustainable Development Goal � and instead cut across all of them � he urged States to open wider, more frank discussions and think outside the box to move forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Mr. ELLISON, addressing the relationship among precipitation, forests and the planet's water availability, said increasing forest cover could have a large impact on water availability. Research suggested that forests take water away. While he did not disagree with those findings at the catchment basin level, he said the precipitation recycling school � which he supported � took a wider view which also considered the water evaporation and transpiration cycle. Comparing land areas that had been afforested versus those where forests remained showed that the forested areas helped prevent water runoff, ultimately increasing water catchment. That research also found that adding forest and vegetation cover could be helpful in upwind coastal areas, where water was otherwise likely to flow into the ocean, as well as in areas where water supply was relatively abundant and moderate trade-offs were therefore acceptable.

Mr. JENKINS said that, as the infrastructure of the planet, forests played a key role in preserving biodiversity, sequestering carbon, conserving soil and preserving long-held human spiritual values. The reality is, most of these are not valued, he said, noting that an acre of soy beans was seen as more valuable than an acre of forest. If we cannot flip this equation, we are not going to win this war, he stressed. Some 1.6 billion people, including millions of indigenous peoples, were dependent on forests, while forest resources enabled people to rise of out of extreme poverty and reduce their vulnerability. Describing those products and services as forests' hidden harvest, he outlined positive developments in a range of countries, many of which stemmed from the fact that forests had been enshrined in such critical global accords as the Paris Agreement on climate change. Governments were currently well positioned to make integrated forest ecosystem services part of their national accounting systems, he said, urging States, the private sector, global financial institutions and others to turn commitments into action through bold, progressive investments in climate and forests.

Mr. GENZ, providing a non-governmental perspective, underlined the need for policymakers to work closely with agrobusinesses, the mining sector and other actors to ensure that investments in sustainable forest management benefitted local communities. Working with certification bodies was crucial, he said, also underscoring the importance of ensuring local peoples' free, prior and informed consent, as well as full respect for their land tenure and water rights.

As the floor was opened for comments and questions, speakers spotlighted national efforts to halt deforestation, increase forest cover and address other issues related the risks posed by climate change. Many agreed with the panellists that forests and their ecosystems were not adequately valued despite their critical role for the planet and humankind.

The representative of India, noting that his country had already registered a 1 per cent increase in its overall forest cover � and was, therefore, well on its way to achieving the 3 per cent increase target by 2030 � voiced support for the Forum's efforts to empower forest-dwellers and youth and support countries' efforts to halt and reverse forest degradation.

The representative of the European Union, echoing those sentiments, also welcomed efforts to promote sustainable forestry value chains in forestry, remove harmful subsidies and implement the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017 2030.

The representative of Malaysia described his country's carbon certification scheme, which supported the use of wood alternatives from sustainable sources. Urging Member States to prioritize the sustainable sourcing of wood and timber products, he warned that without addressing the demand for wood products � largely driven by developed countries � supply-side certification efforts by developing countries would not succeed.

The representative of the Congo was among speakers describing their forests � and the role they played in their people's lives � in detail. In that regard, she noted that the 250 million-hectare Congo Basin spanned the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, Angola and her own country, even reaching as far as Rwanda and the United Republic of Tanzania. It represented one fifth of the world's remaining tropical forests, she said.

Also participating were representatives of Finland, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Switzerland, Pakistan, Mexico and the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine.

Panel II

A second panel discussion on the same theme featured the following panellists: Jitendra Vir Sharma, Director of the Forestry and Biodiversity Division at the Energy and Resources Institute, India; Gary Bull, Head of the Department of Forest Resources Management at the University of British Columbia, Canada; and Duncan Brack, Associate Fellow at Chatham House and Associate at Green Alliance, United Kingdom. David Ganz, Executive Director of the Centre for People and Forests, served as lead discussant.

Mr. SHARMA presented a slideshow on recent developments in India, where more than 100 million households depended on fuel wood with needs expected to rise. More efforts must address those needs, but capacity-building and enormous financial investments were required to achieve the target of reducing national emissions by 2030. India had a strong policy to achieve those targets, along with initiatives to maintain social and environmental safeguards. The social aspect was critical, including by ensuring security to forest dwellers. Meanwhile, mechanisms to improve funding for such initiatives included a green tax and carbon financing, he said, emphasizing that India had a potential to reach emissions targets. But, to do so, efforts must overcome the challenge of reducing the unsustainable harvesting of fuel wood, which to address would cost $6 billion annually until 2030.

Mr. BULL, highlighting the Sustainable Development Goals and their targets, discussed ways to address current challenges. Ensuring access, increasing the share of renewable energy and improving energy efficiency were three critical areas. However, little was being down to overcome those challenges towards meeting the targets. Pivotal steps that would be needed included robust projects on carbon financing, agroforestry and global financing. Having worked for years on putting a price on nature, he said related national efforts, such as Nicaragua's approach, were demonstrating how financing could lead to better forests and conditions. Other measures included creating sustainable management practices, institutional reform and forest tenure reform while supporting research to find new forms of energy and innovative ways to remedy deforestation, degradation and illegal activities.

Mr. BRACK, discussing findings on deforestation and the sustainable use of forest products, presented a slideshow on production and consumption patterns. With China being the largest importer of raw wood and exporter of wood products, demands had also increased, as they had globally. Drivers for rising demands linked to population growth, the discovery of new biomaterials, public policy and restrictions on plastic, with a new preference for paper bags in the retail sector. Industrial roundwood and paper demands were expected to rise, with downward projections for fuel wood demands. Turning to deforestation, he said loss of tree cover had increased globally by 51 per cent in 2016, jeopardizing the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 15, along with climate change exacerbating the risks of forest fires and other disasters. Policies promoting the sustainable production and consumption of wood products must, among other things, improve the use of such products and support the private sector in legal sustainable activities. Similarly, policy reform should promote sustainable forest management, including for non-wood products.

Mr. GANZ warned against over-romanticizing forest dwellers and their subsistence living conditions. For bioenergy or biofuels to be efficient, new and innovative ways must adopt an economy of scale approach that would allow people to keep forests operational and sustainable. More emphasis must be placed on non wood products and efforts must align with holistic accounting mechanisms that took stock of natural assets.

When the discussion began, participants raised concerns, made suggestions for future action and shared best practices. The representative of Australia said her Government had made progress in timber tracking, while Saudi Arabia's representative said current policies addressed challenges, such as rain, logging, drought and livestock grazing, which threatened the more than 2 million hectares of forests in his country. The representative of Senegal, aware of the socioeconomic implications of forests, said national plans were currently protecting ecosystems and promoting sustainable development. Similarly, Ghana's delegate said protecting forests depended on capacity-building, technology transfers and national financing mechanisms. Agreeing, the representative of the Congo emphasized that many livelihoods depended on wood products and if alternative income-generating activities were not found, then current trends would continue.

In a similar vein, the representative of the United States, noting her Government's recognition of the 2030 Agenda, said sustainable forest management should be integrated in economic policies, as the forest industry provided both jobs and opportunities. Supporting innovation and technology was also important in moving forward, she said. Adding to that, Papua New Guinea's delegate, highlighting her country's unique land tenure system, whereby the owners were the people not the Government, asked the Forum to support research to find innovative, sustainable ways to improve forest use.

Major groups shared their perspectives about advancing progress, calling for inclusive approaches. A representative of the major group for farmers and small forest landowners said land tenure and ownership were key rights to consider when developing sustainable forest management systems because security of ownership gave them incentive to plant more trees and use more sustainable practices. A representative of the major group for children and youth said women and young people must be included in efforts to deliver collective success for all ages. In doing so, young people could provide a range of useful skills, he said, noting the work of youth logging trackers.

Also participating in the panel discussion were representatives of New Zealand, Canada and India. Representatives of the Convention on Bio-diversity and the scientific and technological community also took part.

Panel III

In the afternoon, the Forum held an interactive panel discussion on the theme, Power of communication for the successful implementation of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests. Moderated by Caroline Liou, former Communications Manager, Center for People and Forests, it featured the following panellists: Robert Grace, Founding Partner and Head of Strategy, M&C Saatchi Abel, South Africa; Ingwald Gschwandtl, Leader of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Forest Communicators Network; Kai Lintunen, Head of International Communications, Finnish Forest Association; Jennifer Hayes, Public and Legislative Affairs Specialist, United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; Jason Kalugendo, International Consultant and Lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania; and Peter Csoka, Deputy Head of the Forest Economics, Policy and Products Division, FAO, and Secretary of the Committee on Forestry.

Opening the discussion, Ms. LIOU said the session was being held in response to the increasingly urgent need of the forest sector to increase its communications reach. Many of us in this sector are foresters, or worse yet, we're academics, she said, emphasizing that forestry experts were not often effective communicators. Against that backdrop, today's session would seek to help experts improve forest sector project and programme outcomes through more effective dialogue and communication.

Mr. GRACE, spotlighting the difference between information and real communication, quoted former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call on the United Nations to turn complex, abstract ideas into personal and emotional stories. The goal was to help policies connect with people in a powerful and meaningful way, he said, noting that the first step for good communicators was to understand their purpose. In that regard, he played two video clips about projects related to homelessness and safe water access in South Africa � examples of successful communication products � including powerful images of a woman walking the distance of a marathon with a heavy jug of water on her head. Forests are too important a topic to be communicated in a mediocre way, he stressed.

Next, Mr. GSCHWANDTL and Mr. LINTUNEN held a back-and-forth conversation about the importance of strong communication. Let's face it � forestry has an image problem, said Mr. GSCHWANDTL. Mr. LINTUNEN added that it was about more than distributing information, but instead about breaking through with a powerful message. Together, they outlined several critical elements of successful communications campaigns, including: Strong political will; capacity; resources; strategic planning; highly targeted audiences; information based on solid evidence and which used only credible sources; and tenacity. Big changes would not happen overnight, but communicators must keep at it, they stressed.

Ms. HAYES, making a presentation about forest fires' visibility in the media, said such occurrences were not only challenging to predict and combat, but also to communicate about. While many fire scientists were working in the field of fire research, the challenge is to take that information and really communicate it to the people that need it, including municipal leaders and those living in and near forests. In that regard, several fire communicators working in the United States � after making major research breakthroughs � had not been content to just sit on their lifesaving findings. Instead, they were driven to communicate their findings, undertaking a major international media tour. Forests must become a regular part of the news cycle, she said, emphasizing the need to put a face with the facts by amplifying the powerful voice of passionate experts.

Ms. LIOU described participatory development communication, which emphasized two-way communication and sought to facilitate a shift towards deeper exchanges between stakeholders. Citing several successful case studies � including one in Indonesia which had sought to raise community's awareness of climate change impacts and help individuals get involved � she described the activities of grass roots trainers, who could help their own communities better understand the issue. We must involve communities in programme interventions if we want them to be sustainable, she said.

Ms. KALUGENDO, describing some of his research, said local communities often lacked the information needed to help them mitigate climate change in their own areas. As access to news and information increased via the Internet and other sources, communities were increasingly confused, and continued to carry out environmentally degrading practices, such as burning down forests and cutting down trees due to a lack of understanding. We cannot blame them, he said, expressing concern that environmental information � when available at all � came after such actions had already been carried out. In response, his team had undertaken a project linking communication and engagement through face-to-face interaction, an emphasis on doing rather than knowing, spreading information via text message sent by community members to their families and joint consensus. People were excited, they were ready to move, he said, adding that a follow-up revealed communities were still using the knowledge gained months after the study ended.

Mr. LINTUNEN, defining the often-confusing term bioeconomy � the parts of the economy that use renewable biological resources from land and sea � warned that, if environmental communicators did not inform the public about the topic in a vocal, punchy way, others � including competitors, such as representatives of the fossil fuel industries � will do it for us. Bioeconomy related intimately to people's daily lives � their clothes, their homes and the energy they used for all their activities. We need innovative communications tools [] that bring bioeconomy to them, including through such tools as high-prolife spokespeople, broader media coverage and even technology such as virtual reality, he said.

Mr. CSOKA said that, following the conclusion of the International Year of Forests in 2011, the FAO Forestry Department had sought ways to maintain broad public interest in forests. It found that, in Europe, an existing Forest Communicators Network already had a broad range of experience in that area. The FAO decided to establish a regional forest communications network to promote best practices in forest communication. Related FAO workshops began by tackling basic communications, and later moved to provide higher-level support and education to its various network hubs.

Mr. GSCHWANDTL, elaborating further on the work of the Forest Communicators Network, described several communication strategies developed by it. One, inspired by winter in northern Finland, had used Santa Claus as a spokesperson for forests, holding news conferences and producing various widely distributed news spots. In another example, a 650-square-metre living forest had been created in a pavilion at a 2015 energy expo in Milan, drawing a large crowd. Finally, he played a dramatic video clip spotlighting the role of forests as a protector of the Earth against the dangers of climate change. This is simply the start, he said, citing the importance of forests and the challenges still ahead for them.

Joint Presentation of Draft Communication and Outreach Strategy

MANOEL SOBRAL-FILHO, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, opened the presentation, noting that communications and outreach were often seen as public relations or putting a positive spin on United Nations activities. However, they were critical to � and interwoven into � the Forum's work.

MITA SEN, Programme Management Officer at the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, outlined the key elements of the its draft communication and outreach strategy, which had been developed following consultations with the Department of Public Information and circulated to participants as part of a note by the Secretariat on the implementation of the strategic plan (document E/CN.18/2018/2). The strategy's key objectives included raising awareness of how forests were vital to life on Earth and of the strategic plan itself, and to amplify the voices of the forest community. Target audiences included Member States, the United Nations system, major groups and other stakeholders, influencers and the general public. Listing several key messages � including the fact that millions of people relied on forests for their daily survival � she said the draft strategy would employ the 2030 Agenda's global branding and such tools as international days, advocates and messengers, websites and social media platforms. She also described various success criteria and underlined the need to monitor and evaluate the strategy's success.

The representative of Switzerland commented on several aspects of the text. While agreeing with paragraph 2, he raised concerns about paragraph 3 on issues about capacity. There was not significant capacity in the Forum to undertake some of the provisions. He also wondered when the strategy would be finished and approved.

The representative of India said communications materials should address region-specific issues, as there could not be a global strategy that could be applied across the board. The role of forests should be a core issue as part of the messaging. The Forum could consider helping developing countries to organizing information workshops and other related activities.

The representative of Ukraine said that in paragraph 12, it would be appropriate to include the encouragement of each country's implementation measures. A logo, infographics and a brand book would also be beneficial and should be available in different languages.

The representative of Ecuador said lessons learned and best practices should encourage the participation of local populations and indigenous peoples.

The representative of Mexico said the messages from panellists and experts urging more rapid action towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals should be communicated to relevant sectors, he said, expressing concerns that the proposals being discussed offered too few concrete actions.

The representative of New Zealand said the communications strategy must engage critical partners. Simple, focused and engaging messages must be transmitted through viable products beyond the current website. Appreciating the communications savvy brought to the table by youth, she emphasized the importance of all including the input of women and girls. The current planning stage was a significant time to include such input.

The representative of the European Union said the strategy should offer information and ideas on how to best communicate messages. It should also help to achieve improved understanding of sustainable forest management.

The representative of the United States said the strategy should focus on outreach and not on capacity-building and data collection, which should be removed from the strategy because they were unrelated to communications. Providing other suggestions, she said combining sections 1 and 2 could lead to a clear introduction and moving paragraphs 19 and 20 could be moved up in the strategy as they were effective low-cost tools.

The representative of Australia said the current proposal was too general and perhaps focusing on a broad message would be more effective. Other audiences must be provided with calls to action.

The representative of Indonesia made several suggestions, including that messages could include fresh material, World Forest Day should also be commemorated and themes to be addressed by various events and forums should be introduced earlier to permit thorough preparations.

The representative of Iran said the strategy's scope could include more specific issues. In addition, capacity was needed for developing countries at national and regional levels for follow-up and for the implementation. As the strategy needed human and financial resources, he suggested a sub-item indicating costs that could be met with voluntary contributions.

The representative of China said the strategy would help to raise awareness. The communications and awareness-raising efforts should be integrated with policy. Cities and Governments should be target audiences to give them a better understanding of the role forests played and to promote the issues with the general public.

A representative of the major group for farmers and small forest landowners said suspicions persisted in the field. In many countries, small forest landowners were often close to cities and could demonstrate how small-scale approaches were effective. Family forest owners and indigenous owners could play a useful role in increasing understanding and reducing the suspicions of people in the cities. He invited Member States and the Forum to take advantage of the asset of farmers and small forest landowners.

A representative of the major group for children and youth said a brand was needed, just as with the Sustainable Development Goals. The group was ready to provide support to help the Forum to demystifying trees and promote sustainable forestry.

A representative of the major group for women likewise offered support to help shape and implement the strategy.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Canada, Japan and Colombia.

Statements

JAVAD MOMENI (Iran) said the United Nations should play its critical coordinating role in sustainable forest management. Many developing countries needed help, including with capacity-building. The Forum, with its universal membership, played a vital role in addressing related issues to promote sustainable forest management. A special priority should be given to low forest cover countries, with activities that highlighted best practices and lessons learned. To achieve goals at a global level, efforts should be made to reduce fragmentation. Donor Governments and organizations, including financial institutions, must provide adequate contributions to the fund.

AVIRAM ZUCK (Israel), announcing a voluntary contribution towards achieving the global forest goals in the 2030 Agenda, outlined the role his country could play to those ends. Efforts included preventing forest degradation through initiatives that had already increased forest area in Israel by 180 per cent since 1948 and increasing involvement in scientific and technical international partnerships. Israel also participated in global forest-related cooperation through United Nations platforms and had developed techniques to manage forests in climate sensitive regions. But, climate change challenges would not be overcome alone, with the Sustainable Development Goals requiring global efforts to reduce fragmentation and enhance coordination among international organizations, institutions and forest sectors.

RAFAEL DA SOLER (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said a new national monitoring system had already resulted in an increase in protected areas, a decrease in degradation and expanding reforested areas. Public agents, the private sector and civil society could promote further progress.

NASSER R. JAGHOUB, an observer of the State of Palestine, presented a report on recent initiatives, including efforts to increase forest areas and to ensure sustainable practices. The Ministry of Agriculture had, despite scarce resources, implemented a reforestation project. However, Israeli occupation was exacerbating progress. He expressed hope that the Forum could help to preserve Palestinian forests and support developing countries in achieving common objectives.

MEGAT S. AHMAD SUDIAN (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reiterated a commitment to enhancing sustainable forest management for the continuous production of related products in a manner that was compatible with social and environmental concerns. Regional priorities required members to, among other things, strengthen governance, promote social forestry and create a framework to combat transnational illegal forestry. Monitoring efforts included enhancing reporting methods in the region.

Considering existing REDD+ and the Paris Agreement frameworks, he welcomed the international community's contributions to ASEAN efforts to achieve further progress and to support mitigation activities. Elaborating on several ongoing initiatives, he said social forestry was a priority. Forests included interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral issues, he said, underlining the importance of working together to reach common goals.

TEGUH RAHARDJA (Indonesia), aligning himself with ASEAN, said his country had focused on forest dwellers in setting policy. Government actions to reach common goals included giving access to local communities to several million hectares and adopting policies that promoted sustainable practices.

MEHDI REMAOUN (Algeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that, despite the negative impact of human activity on forests in the Mediterranean basin, Algeria remained home to one of the largest woodlands and forests in the region. The General Directorate of Forests ensured the development, administration, protection and management of plant and animal heritage. There were eight national forests in Algeria, he said, underscoring the importance of training and continuing education for forest sector professionals. The Green Dam agro-ecological project which started in the early 1970s was designed to combat desertification. The programme was now a multisector project which included the protection and enhancement of existing forest resources, the recovery of missing forests and the fight against sand encroachment.

NOYAL THOMAS (India) said the proposed strategy would help to achieve related goals and targets. Supporting the notion that nature protected when it was protected, he said India promoted the sustainable management of forests through various actions. Maintaining 80.2 million hectares of forests, India had seen a 1 per cent increase in coverage since 2017. With 300 million people dependent on forests in India, the Government was looking beyond forests to increase tree coverage, including farming efforts that were supported through policy frameworks. In addition, water and sanitation initiatives were under way and forest management committees were implementing critical provisions in the 2030 Agenda, he said, requesting adequate resources were provided to assist in those efforts.

KEITA A. SANTIGUI (Guinea) said his country was taking several steps to promote sustainable forest management through capacity-building and the establishment of training frameworks. The Government had worked with partners to shape the project, taking into consideration critical elements of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Source: United Nations