First International Day of Forests Celebrated

21 March 2013: A number of high-level officials have issued statements in celebration of the first-ever International Day of Forests, including the UN Secretary-General, and the Heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

In his message to mark the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recognizes the importance of forests in providing food, shelter, livelihoods and combating climate change. He calls for the further reduction of deforestation rates, the prevention of forest degradation, and continued efforts to reduce poverty and promote sustainable livelihoods among forest-dependent peoples.

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for UNDESA, emphasizes the need to establish policies, laws and institutions that recognize the multiple social and economic values of forests. Jan McAlpine, Director of the UNFF Secretariat, stresses the importance of the interlinkages among people, forests and trees.

José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General proposes that countries support a Zero Illegal Deforestation target in the context of the post-2015 debate. He underscores that stopping illegal deforestation and forest degradation would contribute to eradicating hunger and extreme poverty.

Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, CBD Executive Secretary, emphasizes the ecosystem services provided by forests and notes the multiple pressures on forests. He points to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, of which five are directly relevant to the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests.

Luc Gnacadja, UNCCD Executive Secretary, focuses on dry forests and emphasizes the links among reforestation and forest conservation, as well as the objective of achieving land degradation neutrality.

In a video statement, Peter Holmgren, CIFOR Director General, underscores the contribution of forests to the provision of income, food and energy. He also notes the importance and value of forests as related to carbon sequestration, soil protection, biodiversity, culture and recreation. CFOR is a member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson Naoko Ishii said the International Day “is an excellent opportunity to highlight successful forest initiatives.”  The GEF noted that it is well positioned to tackle deforestation.

With regard to agroforestry, Tony Simons, ICRAF Director General, stresses the role of smallholder farmers in restoring and preserving forests. He adds that food production and on-farm incomes will increase with the use of agroforestry. [UNDPI Press Release] [FAO Press Release] [UNDESA Press Release] [CBD Press Release] [UNCCD Press Release] [CIFOR Blog Post] [GEF Press Release][ICRAF Press Release]