Eighteenth Session,
2nd & 3rd Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers Call for Concrete Forest-Based Actions to Combat Climate Change, Advance Sustainable Development, as United Nations Forum Commences Session

With 2023 a pivotal year for the United Nations Strategic Plan on Forests and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the United Nations Forum on Forests must identify concrete forest-based actions, address interlinkages and advance progress towards combating climate change and ensuring sustainable development, speakers today stressed as the Forum commenced its eighteenth session.

In his opening remarks, Zéphyrin Maniratanga (Burundi), Chair of the Forum on Forests, stressed that, with less than seven years to implement the United Nations Strategic Plan on Forests, Forum Members should identify specific actions to accelerate the achievement of the Plan’s global forest goals.  Forests, reservoirs of 80 per cent of terrestrial biodiversity, are essential for achieving the Paris Agreement on climate change.  As such, the international community must address forests, biodiversity, land degradation and climate change in a holistic and integrated manner.  As well, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests should actively support Forum Members in delivering on-the-ground impact.  “Let us individually and collectively show our firm determination because tomorrow will be too late,” he urged.

Lachezara Stoeva (Bulgaria), President of the Economic and Social Council, noted that, as one of the first functional Commissions to align its work with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the Forum has provided substantive input for the high-level political forum.  With universal membership, the Forum should suggest concrete actions on accelerating progress.  By working together, she pledged:  “We will ensure that the Goals set in the 2030 Agenda and the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests will be accomplished.”

Li Junhua, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, pointed out that forests play a fundamental role in addressing current global challenges.  When they are well-managed, forests regulate the climate, influence rainfall patterns, absorb greenhouse gases and provide a vital social safety net for communities. Despite these undeniable benefits, forests continue to be threatened, he emphasized, urging the international community to address the links to poverty, industrial development, food and energy.  For its part, the Forum should highlight the critical importance of forests and sustainable forest management.

Juliette Biao, Director of the Forum Secretariat — introducing its note titled “Technical discussions on the implementation of the United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030:  activities in support of the thematic priorities for the biennium 2023-2024” (document E/CN.18/2023/2) — said the note outlines progress and priorities; provides the latest information on voluntary national contributions since the seventeenth session; and contains several suggestions.

Also delivering a presentation on the “Vision, priorities and achievements of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat”, she said the Secretariat will harmonize policies, strategies and actions to ensure that the world’s forests are sustainably managed.  Since the Forum is a unique policy space, Member States should have their high-level representatives participate; facilitate resources; and bring the voice of forests with them.  The Forum, she underscored, “is your baby — if you want it to grow, it will grow”.

During the ensuing discussions, delegates highlighted areas and issues for the Forum to address as others spotlighted their national efforts.

The representative of Jamaica, for one, showcased his Government’s national management plan and its endeavours to increase its forest area. However, he also stressed that small island States still need capacity-building support to sustainably manage their forests, identify forest products and increase market access.

Echoing that, Guatemala’s delegate said his Government is seeking solutions to contribute to its national efforts.  Despite having funded more than 46,600 projects to counter the loss of forest cover, these efforts have not been enough to achieve results. As such, States must enhance their investment in highly vulnerable countries; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and deliver on voluntary national contribution targets.

The representative of India emphasized that the lack of certification does not automatically mean that a forest area is not sustainably managed.  Since certification is a costly, cumbersome and complicated process which poses challenges to developing countries, the international community must develop alternative indicators to measure sustainability. 

The Russian Federation’s delegate noted that a number of independent certification systems have been unilaterally cancelled for his country because of political purposes.  Nevertheless, his country is a world leader in protecting its forest coverage; has implemented legitimate timber production, legislative and normative measures; and enhanced its forest fire prevention.

However, the representative of the European Union stressed that Moscow’s illegal war of aggression has made it impossible to carry out sustainable forest management in that region of Europe.  Its drastic destruction is hampering digitalization and strengthened transparency in forestry, among other things.  For its part, the Forum must be more open, adaptive and flexible on emerging challenges; strengthen itself as a credible operator; and improve coherence, cooperation and synergies with others, she insisted.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s delegate pointed out that polluting countries have yet to meet their financing commitments.  Against that backdrop, she advocated for compensation to forest-dwelling populations and financial support to countries on their adaptation and mitigation projects. All must adopt the necessary measures to protect land and biodiversity, she emphasized, urging all “to speak in one language” on preserving forest ecosystems. 

In other business today, the Forum elected as Vice-Chair of its eighteenth and nineteenth sessions Leticia María Zamora Zumbado (Costa Rica) by acclamation and Jaroslav Kubišta (Czech Republic) by secret ballot. It also appointed as Rapporteur Ismail Belen (Türkiye) by acclamation.  The Forum also approved its agenda (document E/CN.18/2023/1) and organization of work. 

The Forum on Forests will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 9 May, to continue its eighteenth session.

Opening Remarks

ZÉPHYRIN MANIRATANGA (Burundi), Chair of the eighteenth and nineteenth sessions of the United Nations Forum on Forests, said that, with the international community preparing for the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals Summit in September, 2023 is a very special year.  To seize on this opportunity, the Forum’s Bureau organized an event in April at the United Nations Headquarters on forests, energy, livelihoods and the Global Goals to highlight the significance of such issues and their interconnections.  This year is also an important one for the Forum as its Members engage in the preparations for the midterm review of the International Arrangement on Forests. With less than seven years to implement the United Nations Strategic Plan on Forests, Members should identify specific actions to accelerate the achievement of the Plan’s global forest goals. They should also welcome the international community’s increased attention, including in the new Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. 

Forests are not just the reservoirs of 80 per cent of terrestrial biodiversity but are also essential for achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change as a great means for carbon sequestration, he stressed.  Since all restoration activities of degraded lands essentially consist of reforestation, afforestation and combating deforestation, forest-based communities must have greater involvement in all forest-related processes and in the fight against desertification and the effects of droughts.  Financing sustainable forest management activities and projects should also include preserving biodiversity, tackling climate change and fighting land degradation.  To that end, the international community must tackle silos by addressing forests, biodiversity, land degradation and climate change in a holistic and integrated manner. For its part, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests should take a more active role in supporting the Forum’s Members and delivering real impact on the ground.  All Forum participants should renew their commitment to achieve the global forest goals and targets, he emphasized, adding:  “Let us individually and collectively show our firm determination because tomorrow will be too late.”

LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria), President of the Economic and Social Council, noting that the 2023 Sustainable Development Summit marks the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda’s implementation, recalled that the Forum on Forests was among the first functional Commissions to align its work with the 2030 Agenda in its substantive areas of work and its annual work programme.  In addition, the Global Forest Goals of the Strategic Plan for Forests and their targets were conceived with their linkages to various Sustainable Development Goals.  Forest-related actions to combat climate-change, including carbon sequestration, mitigation and adaptation, contribute to the accomplishment of Goal 13. In addition, the green economy offers decent employment in the forestry sector and helps to achieve Goals 1, 8 and 10. These Goals aim to achieve clean water and sanitation through conservation and restoration of forest watersheds, including trees outside forests and urban forests, which contribute to the sustainability of cities and communities. 

Recognizing that every Economic and Social Council subsidiary body plays a role in achieving the 2030 Agenda, she said the Forum has been providing substantive input for the high-level political forum on sustainable development.  Relying on its universal membership, she encouraged the Forum and its members to share their perspectives on advancing the Sustainable Development Goals by suggesting concrete actions on accelerating progress towards the global forest goals.  “Working together, we will ensure that the Goals set in the 2030 Agenda and the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests will be accomplished,” she stated. 

LI JUNHUA, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted that, as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic still reverberate globally, new conflicts have ignited new crises, disrupting energy markets and worsening food security and malnutrition.  Further, a global cost-of-living crisis has pushed millions into economic hardship and natural disasters continue to generate humanitarian crises in many countries.  Forests play a fundamental role in addressing these challenges, he underscored.  When they are well-managed, forests regulate the climate, influence rainfall patterns, cool urban areas and absorb some one third of all greenhouse gases emitted each year.  They also provide a vital social-safety net for communities, as Indigenous Peoples and small-farm holders rely on forests for food, fodder, shelter, energy, medicine and income.

He pointed out, however, that — despite their undeniable benefits — forests continue to be threatened.  Every year, millions of hectares of natural forests are converted to other uses such as large-scale commercial agriculture.  Deforestation cannot be tackled unless the international community also addresses its links to poverty, industrial development and food and energy needs.  “And we certainly cannot divorce it from the impact of climate change,” he stressed. Urging that the Forum’s deliberations highlight the critical importance of forests and sustainable forest management to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, he said this session of the Forum should be used to provide concrete input to the high-level political forum on sustainable development that will occur later in 2023.

Technical Discussions on Implementation of Forest Strategy Plan 

JULIETTE BIAO, Director of the Forum Secretariat — introducing its note titled “Technical discussions on the implementation of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030:  activities in support of the thematic priorities for the biennium 2023-2024” (document E/CN.18/2023/2) — said the note provides background information to facilitate technical discussions.  It also contains information on the thematic priorities for the 2023-2024 biennium, including interlinkages to the global forest goals, the Sustainable Development Goals and international forest-related developments; outlines the progress and priorities to be addressed within each priority; and highlights several upcoming events such as the high-level political forum on sustainable development in July 2023 and the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in September 2023. 

She went on to say that at the high-level political forum, the Forum on Forest and its Members must promote and highlight forest-based actions and contributions to address current global challenges and accelerate progress towards the Global Goals, she stressed.  She then pointed out that the note contains the latest information on voluntary national contributions which have been made in support of the global forest goals since the Forum’s seventeenth session — 23 as of March 2023. The note also contains several suggestions for discussing during the Forum’s eighteenth session and for possible inclusion in the Chair’s summary, she said.

The floor then opened for a general discussion on Item 3 addressing the “Technical Discussions on the Implementation of the Strategic Plan for Forests” and on Item 5 addressing “Emerging Issues.”

Ms. VIKHTIUK (Ukraine) said that in 2022 Ukraine adopted legislation on the protection of self-seeding forests.  The State Forest Resources Agency also developed an acting plan on creating forest seed-growing centres, four of which have already been built. Due to the Russian Federation’s military aggression, one centre in the Donetsk region has been destroyed, with many perennial research lost.  Moreover, 2.9 million hectares of forest have different levels of damage with up to 1 million hectares occupied or hostile conditions.  Contamination is one of the critical issues, she stressed, adding that hundreds of thousands of forests are not accessible for sustainable forest management and need to be cleared of mines and unexploded ordnance. The Russian Federation’s military aggression has become an obstacle in the implementation of Ukraine’s international obligations and the achievement of its national strategic goals.  Once the war is over, the large-scale restoration of forests’ ecosystem will become a priority for Ukraine, she said.

BRUNO RÍOS SÁNCHEZ (Mexico) expressed support for inviting the Collaborative Partnership on Forests to provide technical support for achieving global forest goals.  Recalling that one of his Government’s commitments is to protect natural heritage while contributing to the well-being of the most vulnerable, he said that ecosystems’ recovery and biodiversity can only be achieved through concerted and joint responsibility of the Government, communities and society as a whole.  To this end, Mexico has implemented sustainable forestry management public programmes and policies, including its Sustainable Forest Development Programme for Well-Being, to support those who own, legitimately hold or live in forest areas in sustainable forest management, while strengthening value chains that contribute to the adaptation and mitigation of climate change. 

Mr. HENRY (Jamaica) said that the need to enhance forest-based economic, social and environmental benefits has led to national commitments to increase engagement with local forest-dependent communities.  These commitments seek to build capacity in support of green initiatives, which will result in socioeconomic development, biodiversity conservation and climate-change mitigation.  He also detailed a national management plan for mangroves and swamp forests, along with Government efforts to increase the area of forests under sustainable management plans — which currently cover just over 41 per cent of such ecosystems in Jamaica.  On that point, he urged the Forum to support small island States in building capacity to sustainably manage forests, identify forest products — “especially non-timber ones” — and increase access to markets.

Mr. BURUSPAT (Thailand), spotlighting the importance of national forest resources, detailed his Government’s efforts to sustainably manage forests — such as those aiming to increase the country’s protected green area to 55 per cent.  Additional measures include the adoption of legislative frameworks to promote participation and governance in sustainable forest management — both in terms of conservation and production — and the introduction of biodiversity-conservation initiatives.  Further, he reported that Thailand is “walking the talk” in implementing the Paris Agreement, including through carbon credits derived from the forest sector. Noting that these carbon credits will help limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C° and contribute to better quality of life, he added that “Thailand promises to keep walking”.

Mr. OSTROVSKY (Israel), calling his country’s forests a major component of climate adaptation efforts, said its forest service protects forests, combats deforestation, expands forested areas and creates connectivity between open spaces.  It also plays a significant role beyond forestlands by enhancing the ecosystem services provided by degraded and damaged landscapes and increasing tree cover in urban and rural communities as well as in marginal areas adjacent to built-up and agricultural land.  He also spotlighted the national long-term planning that engages sustainable guiding principles on forest management, including, among others, multiple use, habitat suitability, enhanced natural processes, smart intervention, vitality, tolerance and stability, diversity, complexity and patchiness, national heritage protection and environmental protection.

Mr. KRAJCIC (Slovenia), stressing that climate change, natural disasters, disease outbreaks and pests have now more than ever put forests in the spotlight, called for strengthening existing dialogues among relevant stakeholders to preserve the contributions and roles of forests.  The international community must continue to support cooperation among forest owners, public forest services and research and educational institutions as this is the only way, he urged.  Only in this way can the world acquire the new knowledge and skills to enable sustainable forest management.  At the same time, the international community must improve the transparency of its work and enhance communication on the role of forests and all wood and non-wood forest products.  When creating policies, strategies and legislation, it must not overlook society and small forest owners from rural areas, he emphasized. 

Mr. CAISIN (Republic of Moldova) said his Government has aligned itself with the urgent global policy to overcome the environmental crisis. Noting that forest cover is only 11 per cent of the Republic of Moldova’s land, he recalled that several national strategic plans and policy documents have set targets for further forest areas expansion to 15-17 per cent between 1990 and 2020.  Recognizing that the targets have only been partially met, he said the Government has announced a national Afforestation and Reforestation Programme for 2023-2032 that envisages planting and rehabilitating forest vegetation on an area of 145 hectares by 2032, including 66,000 hectares of new forest plantation; 10,000 hectares of shelterbelts; and 24,000 hectares of rehabilitated forestland.  Most of these measures are foreseen on communal lands, including private and State lands.  The programme is expected to create new job in the rural areas; restore agricultural production and sustainable landscapes; and make the Republic of Moldova carbon-neutral by 2030. 

MARÍA SOLEDAD SANDLLER (Argentina) said that her country’s law on Conservation of Native Forests covers more than 53 million hectares, while classifying forests to conservation categories.  To this end, 81 per cent of the country’s native forests are under high or medium protection with no land use changes permitted, while all forest interventions are subject to a conservation and sustainable management plan.  Noting that cultivated forests provide 95 per cent of Argentina’s raw materials used in the forestry industry, she said many industries are covered by a chain of custody schemes that ensure socially and environmentally sustainable production.  Further, she spotlighted Argentina’s efforts to protect forests through its Green Climate Fund and a new project on combating deforestation and forest management under the Results Based Payments pilot programme “REDD+” with a disbursement of $82 million.

Ms. KANOUTE KONE (Malawi) said that, despite problems resulting from climate-related disasters, the Government has continued implementing strategies aiming to restore 4.5 million hectares of forests by 2030.  Detailing the same, she reported that 50 million trees have been planted over the 2022-2023 growing season, that the Government is supporting implementation of forest carbon markets and that a national monitoring unit has been created to develop, implement and institutionalize data-collection tools to inform forest management.  She pointed out, however, that deforestation continues due to inadequate financing for national action plans; poor governance of forest resources; inadequate institutional capacity; and massive demand for biomass energy, as over 90 per cent of the population relies on firewood and charcoal for daily energy.

Ms. BABAIZA MASUDI (Democratic Republic of the Congo), noting that her country is home to more than 55 million hectares of forests — 62 per cent of the forest coverage present in the Congo Basin — underscored the need for “all to speak in one language” regarding the importance of preserving these ecosystems, especially in the face of climate change. She also spotlighted the need to provide compensation to forest-dwelling populations and to ensure that countries are able to finance their own adaptation and mitigation projects.  On that point, she underscored that commitments made by polluting countries to finance the preservation of forests more than 14 years ago have yet to be met.  She therefore called on those present to adopt the necessary measures to protect land and biodiversity.

Ms. STIGLUND, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, underscored the importance of strengthening the Forum as a credible operator while improving coherence, cooperation and synergies with others policy spaces such as the high-level political forum on sustainable development.  Member States should make use of the Forum and tackle implementation gaps.  Future sessions should continue this practice especially since the Forum must be more open, adaptive and flexible on new and emerging issues and challenges.  She also underlined the vital role of sustainable forest management for the transition to sustainable economies and the mitigation of climate-related disasters.  For its part, the European Union has agreed on legislation to combat deforestation and forest degradation which aims to boost sustainable businesses and models across the world and create alternative income streams. 

Turning to emerging issues, she pointed out that there is a part of Europe which is currently suffering from immense problems with energy supply and heating.  In this part, it is currently impossible to carry out sustainable forest management on significant parts of the forest area; drastic damages and destruction are limiting the forest sector and all associated livelihoods as achievements on digitalization and strengthened transparency in forestry are being hampered.  Voicing her full solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, she condemned the Russian Federation’s illegal unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine, which has resulted in dramatic human, economic, social and environmental consequences in the region.

Mr. PRASAD (India), noting his country is among the top 10 in the world in terms of forest area, said his Government is promoting agroforestry to reduce the impacts on natural forests by meeting more than 80 per cent of the demand for wood and non-wood products. On the Forum’s background analytical study which emphasizes that sustainability has become synonymous with certification, he pointed out that certification poses several challenges for small producers and marginal farmers in developing countries.  Most notably, it is cumbersome, complicated and involves additional costs without the positive benefits commensurate with such costs. As a result, certification has a limited outreach in developing countries.  In that vein, the lack of certification does not automatically mean that a forest area is not sustainably managed, he emphasized, calling for alternative parameters and indicators to measure the sustainability of forests and products obtained from them.

AMIR SAEID IRAVANI (Iran) said his country will host the International Conference on Combating Sand and Dust Storms in September, noting that addressing these challenges requires financing investment and national and international commitments.  International cooperation and the United Nations can play an important role in supporting low-forest cover countries by providing technical and financial assistance and promoting sustainable forest management practices.  Recalling that sustainable forest management is one of Iran’s environmental priorities, he said the country has established several protected areas for forest conservation and biodiversity; promoted the participation of local communities in forest management; and launched several large deforestation programmes to increase forest cover.  To this end, the “National Tree Planning” campaign aims at combating desertification and increasing public awareness about the importance of preserving natural resources.  The Government has also developed a national forests programme outlining its strategy for sustainable forest management. 

Mr. PANFILOV (Russian Federation) said the number of forest fires in the Russian Federation has been reduced threefold compared to 2021 due to the measures adopted to increase ground and air patrols and help ensure the relevant services’ full equipment.  Recalling that one of the country’s key forest policy’s objectives was to achieve a full balance in the forests use in 2021-2022, he said more than 2.3 million hectares have been reforested.  In 2023, the country plans to reforest more than 1.4 billion hectares of forests.  Turning to biodiversity, he recalled that the Russian Federation is a world leader in protected forest coverage with more than 30 per cent of its forests under protection.  Moreover, the legitimate production of timber and other legislative and normative measures are being implemented to this end, while the Government has enhanced the effectiveness of its related facilities’ inspection and materials to prevent forest fires.  However, he pointed out that a number of independent certification systems of forests products and management has been unilaterally cancelled for the Russian Federation and Belarus for political purposes.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Peru, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, China, Greece, Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Türkiye, Mali, Armenia, Japan, Guyana, Gabon, United States, Kenya, Morocco, France, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Botswana and Costa Rica, as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  A representative of the Amazon Cooperative Treaty Organization also spoke.

Vision, Priorities, Achievements of Forum on Forests Secretariat 

Ms. BIAO, reviewing Item 3(b)(i)(ii) addressing contributions and voluntary contributions to the Forum on implementing the Strategic Plan for Forests, detailed the multiple crises facing the global community, including increased inflation, food and energy insecurity, shrinking fiscal space, rising debt levels and more frequent natural disaster.  Further, conflict, migration, poverty, inequality and unemployment are impacting many countries’ socioeconomic situations, as is a lack of technical, technological and financial support. 

“It is against this backdrop that we build our shared vision,” she noted, outlining a vision of a Secretariat that facilitates Member States’ leadership on forest-related issues on a global level.  Whether it is legally binding or not, the Forum is a unique space where Member States and partners can come together to discuss forest-related policies, she stressed, adding that “this should not be taken for granted”. For its part, the Secretariat aims to increase its support to Member States in harmonizing policies, strategies and actions to ensure that the world’s forests are sustainably managed.

She went on to spotlight the importance of high-level representation at the Forum’s policy sessions, urging that ministers — and, eventually, Heads of State — should participate therein given the importance of the topic.  She also stressed the need to build strategic partnerships — especially in the context of limited financial and human resources — noting, for example, that Government ministries other than those tasked with the environment or forests have a role to play.  The private sector is also important — “not only for cash” — as many forestry companies are already part of the solution to combat desertification.  Additionally, she detailed the Secretariat’s priorities going forward, namely in the areas of partnerships; resource mobilization; monitoring and evaluating actions relating to sustainable forest management; communication and outreach; and stakeholder involvement.

Calling on Member States to use the opportunity provided by the upcoming high-level political forum on sustainable development to support forest-related global processes, she urged them to “bring the voice of forests wherever you go”.  Turning to the Forum’s trust fund, she said that it has received $31 million since its inception in 2000.  From the period of 2000-2022, five countries have provided the most support:  the United States ($11 million), the United Kingdom ($5.5 million), China ($3 million), Germany ($2.7 million) and Finland ($2 million).  Expressing hope that countries will continue supporting the Forum with both financial and human resources to help with staffing and participation issues, she observed that the Forum “is your baby — if you want it to grow, it will grow”.

The floor then opened to a joint discussion on Item 3: “Contributions of Members of the Forum to implementing the UNSPF:  New announcements of Voluntary National Contributions (ii) Updates on Voluntary National Contributions and their follow up related to the thematic priority”.

The representative of Switzerland, commending Ms. Biao’s efforts to get the Forum fit for the future, underlined the importance for Members to know the vision.  She asked for additional information on issues regarding the Forum Secretariat’s size, noting:  “We used to have in the past some descriptions of who was doing what.  At this stage, it is very difficult; we’ve kind of lost track:  who is still on the Secretariat, who is not, and what could be some capacities you would need.”  She also pledged her Government’s continued financial support to the Forum.

The representative of Guatemala said his country is implementing different programmes to counter the loss of forest cover.  More than 46,600 projects are being funded, benefiting individual owners, cooperatives, communities, firms and municipalities who are receiving more than $80.7 million a year, thereby making it possible for more than 61,000 families to develop livelihoods.  They are nevertheless not enough to achieve results, he pointed out, stressing that the Government is seeking solutions to contribute to its national efforts.  Countries and international organizations must enhance their cooperation and investment in those that are highly vulnerable to climate change; increase their efforts to reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions; and achieve voluntary national contribution targets.

The representative of Australia said that the Forum has seen a full range of new multilateral initiatives, including on emerging issues, such as the Forests and Climate Partnership.  To that end, he encouraged Member States to work together more collaboratively, while using the expertise available on the topic.  The forests policy process might solve the existing financing challenges by addressing some of the “congestion” issues on emerging challenges, he added.

The representative of the United States said her country’s support — a long term donor to the Trust Fund — has enabled staffing positions and travel.  In order to increase funding, it would be useful to understand the current staffing situation and the Secretariat’s portfolios, while also exploring virtual and hybrid meetings.  Together with the Secretariat, her country will keep providing information to other Conventions and organizations, including the Forests and Climate Partnership, while also engaging in the preparation of the mid-term review to address some of the challenges and identify specific priorities.

The representative of Uganda called on the Chair to mobilize resources and increase support for developing countries towards implementation of the global forest goals, notwithstanding scarce resources.

The representative of Morocco said the international community must ask itself whether forests are truly an important priority or not and what future it wishes to see for forests.  Such questions can be discussed in a high-level debate, he said, noting that intersectoral approaches are also needed as forests have to do with water, industry, health and tourism.  Understanding the road map and volume of financing required to achieve the Strategic Plan for Forests goals are also needed.  Holding a high-level conference on mobilizing financing for forests is vital to bolster local and national capacities, he stressed, underlining that managing forests is not just an environmental project but also one that relates to socioeconomic development.

The representative of Brazil, noting comments on increasing the Forum’s visibility, asked how to translate the Strategic Plan for Forests into locally relevant policies and programmes that truly resonate with development needs — particularly in developing countries.  He also asked how the Forum could catalyse enhanced cooperation in areas such as technology transfer to address the underlying challenges that often undermine Member States’ capacities to scale-up sustainable forest management.

The representative of China said that the challenges faced by the Secretariat in meeting its goals are similar to those faced by Member States.  While China ranks among the top-five donors to the Forum’s trust fund, he noted that “this is quite a challenge” for his country because it is still in the process of development.  He also noted that one reason for insufficient support of the Forum’s funding and staffing needs is that many Governments do not see the Forum as a priority. On this, he underlined the need to communicate the importance of forests to national authorities.

The representative of New Zealand encouraged the Forum’s Secretariat to continue its efforts to raise the Forum’s profile as the only forest policy forum.  Increased transparency on the funding situation would be helpful in terms of challenges, she said, echoing other speakers, adding that it would also be useful to identify and set priorities for emerging issues as well as existing and potential partners for collective efforts towards solutions.

Ms. BIAO, responding to questions and comments, thanked countries for their contributions; underlined the need to prioritize; and underscored the necessity of building partnerships within a context of limited resources.  “When we share our concerns about the workload, please don’t forget that we are a Secretariat that provides substantive support to Member States; but we are also a division — one division within nine divisions in [the Department of Economic and Social Affairs], and being a division means that we have to deliver some results,” she said.

Currently, the Forum Secretariat is “borrowing” staff from other divisions, she reported, also pointing out the need to spend money in order to raise money, especially since appealing proposals must be evidence-based and may even require travel.  Regarding technology transfers, she noted that this can be done through the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network.  On emerging issues, she highlighted the support of various stakeholders, stressing:  “We can’t even walk alone.”  She then shared that the Collaborative Partnership on Forests will explore what it can do better and how it can better utilize its expertise during its retreat.  The Forum Secretariat also will provide clarification about countries which need support to attend the Forum’s upcoming meetings in Nairobi and Vienna, she said.

HOSSEIN MOEINI-MEYBODI, Senior Forest Policy Officer, responding to a question about funding, the cost of interpretation and its impact on participation in the meetings, said there will be additional costs for the three-hour interpretation slots for hybrid meetings, due to the need of engaging a second team of interpreters.  However, he confirmed the availability of facilities for such meetings. 

Ms. BIAO, responding to the question relating to the hybrid meetings format, said the Secretariat will look into the related costs and share the information with Member States to find appropriate solutions. 

Also speaking in the joint discussion were representatives of Canada, Malawi, Russian Federation, India and Mexico. 

The floor then opened to the general discussion on Item 3(e):  “Implementation of the UNSPF Communication and Outreach strategy, including activities regarding the International Day of Forests 2023”. 

Mr. GREGUSKA (Slovakia) said that a Government decree in 2017 provided the legal conditions for launching and implementing a direct payments system for forest owners with a view to supporting non-productive forest functions.  In principle, every forest owner can apply for financial support, provided that they manage forests according to the Government’s forest management plan which is in line with the principles of sustainable forest management.  In addition, the system provides incentives to forest owners to practice and apply cross-drainage methods, as well as adaptive measures in managing forests.  Since 2017, almost €22 million have been allocated to forest owners to support fulfilling non-productive functions of Slovak forests.

Mr. CISTERNA AGUILAR (Peru) recalled that in February his country presented for the first time its voluntary national contribution, formulated by the National Forest Service in coordination with the Ministry of Environment.  The forest sector is taking on an even more important role when it comes to complying with Peru’s international commitments, he pointed out, underscoring the need to strengthen capacities and prioritize public and private sector cooperation, technology transfer and resource mobilization.

JEON DUCKHA, (Republic of Korea) detailed his country’s national strategies for carbon neutrality and green growth, along with measures designed to reduce the damage caused by forest fires.  On that point, he noted an increased incidence of wildfires in his country resulting from climate change and said the Government is working to control them by leveraging scientific data.  Reporting that national conservation measures have expanded protected forest areas from 20,000 hectares to 1 million hectares, he said that his country will continue efforts to implement the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests.

Mr. PONCE (Ecuador) reported that his country increased its forest cover by 5 per cent through conservation and protection measures. Outlining other Government efforts relating to forest management, he said that his country has been conducting a second evaluation of its forest resources with help from the international community and, with support from the FAO, has been working on a strategy for sustainable environmental development.  He also detailed national measures to promote models of sustainable production, including by providing opportunities to Indigenous communities and by fighting against forest degradation.

Mr. TURHAN (Türkiye) said his country has demonstrated its support for the global forest goals through its voluntary contributions.  In response to the climate change impact, Türkiye has developed monitoring and early warning systems for wildfires; started using advanced technological tools; and set up new fire pools for rapid response.  More so, it continues to increase its forests with an aim of covering one third of the country’s surface by the end of 2023, while also strengthening cooperation, coordination and political commitments to combat desertification and erosion. 

Mr. ABU SALIM (Malaysia) said that his country has implemented a number of programmes in support of the global forest goals.  Noting that these goals are often not achieved because of insufficient financial, technical and technological support, he outlined that countries have different starting positions and opportunities of achieving these incentives.  To this end, he suggested that Member States, businesses, financial institutions and key stakeholders accelerate their support for developing and least developed countries in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. 

Also speaking in the general discussion on Item 3(b) were the representatives of Malawi, India, Brazil, Russian Federation, Thailand and Costa Rica.

The floor then opened for a general discussion on Item 3(e) addressing “Implementation of the UNSPF Communication and Outreach strategy, including activities regarding the International Day of Forests 2023”.

Ms. NODADA (South Africa), noting that her country will continue to celebrate the International Day of Forests, pointed out that in South Africa 21 May coincides with its national Human Rights Day.  On 24 March, it celebrated the International Day of Forests focused not only on the benefits of forests and the health of people, but also the health and vitality of forests.  Spotlighting the impact of climate change on forests, forest ecosystems and forest-dependent livelihoods, she pointed to the increasing incidents of widespread fires and spread of pestilent diseases, which is threatening the sustainable management of forests.  Her country is collaborating with neighbouring countries to address the impact of cross-border fires.

Mr. JUSTIANTO (Indonesia) said the International Day of Forests is a strategic opportunity to raise global public awareness and action to promote sustainable forest management.  This year, his country marked that important day in conjunction with Indonesian Forester Week by organizing a series of events, which highlighted, most importantly, the importance of multistakeholder partnerships, particularly between private, public and local communities.  As home to one of the world’s largest rain forests and one of the most biodiverse places, his country will always be at the forefront of the issue and continue to lead by example and, as such, is committed to expanding nature conservation and restoration, he said.

Ms. MOONEY (Canada) expressed concern over the state of the Forum’s website, pointing out that it is not intuitive, it lacks important links and its outreach page does not provide materials — such as icons or infographics — that Member States can use in their own communications.  She therefore requested the Secretariat to provide Member States with an update regarding what can be expected in the website’s future.

Mr. MALEAKH (Saudi Arabia), noting the importance of the International Day of Forests, detailed Government efforts to observe the same on social media and through in-person meetings.  He also outlined national actions to conserve forests, including the planting of 27,000 trees by partners in the public and private sectors. He added that, between 2017 and 2023, more than 4 million trees have been planted in Saudi Arabia by over 100,000 volunteers.

Ms. TABLIGA (Philippines)said that her country — through the Forests Management Bureau — spearheads a number of information, education and communication activities to promote forest conservation and widen the networks of “forestry champions”.  It also conducts various outreach events and disseminates information materials to communicate sustainable forests management to the public.  In 2023, the Philippines celebrated the International Day of Forests by conducting an art exhibition and a series of art therapy sessions to promote mental health and well-being, while also raising awareness about the ecological importance of forests. 

Mr. DIAZ BEARD (Dominican Republic) said his country has legislation for the ecosystems’ protection and sustainable use.  In the course of the Reforestation Programme’s implementation — financed from the national budget — the Dominican Republic has reforested more than 100,000 hectares of forests since 1997, using mostly endemic species.  It has also expanded the national territory’s protected area from 18 to 25 per cent.  In partnership with the Ministry of Education, the country organized a number of events and workshops to celebrate the International Day, having planted more than 50,000 trees.  On 12 May, it will re-launch its National Reforestation Programme for water basins with a goal of planting 20 million trees in the next three years with more than $20 million invested in its national budget towards that goal.

Ms. KANOUTE KONE (Mali) expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Forum on Forests to intensify communications at all levels, but voiced agreement on the need for improvement.  In that regard, her country has introduced a communications strategy on forests and climate change, which conveys information in various languages, she said.  With respect to the International Day of Forests, it has organized an information session and awareness-raising work on the protection of forests.  It aims to ensure the restoration of forests and is organizing communications with universities and looking at how forests can contribute to mental and physical health and address climate change and other ills.

Also speaking in the general discussion on Item 3(e) were representatives of Mexico, India, United States, Ecuador, China, Thailand, Russian Federation, Australia and Switzerland.  A representative of the European Union, in its capacity as an observer, also spoke.

For information media. Not an official record.