Forests for people - Tuesday 1 February

Yesterday and today two working groups have been in closed session, says Gill Shepherd, IUCN consultant speaking at that 9th UN Forest Forum in New York.  We lesser mortals are keeping a weather eye out of the windows. Last week’s snow drifts are still piled high at the sides of the streets and there is more snow promised for tonight and for the end of the week. We worry about colleagues who are not here yet, and in some ways tropical forests seem a world away.

Gill Shepherd

Nevertheless, exciting things are going on in those closed sessions, and we look forward to tomorrow. Working group one has been considering the main theme of the 9th UN Forest Forum (UNFF9) - Forests for People, Livelihoods and Poverty Eradication - and discussing plans for the International Year of Forests (IYF). Working group two has been responsible for agenda items on assessment, on global and regional inputs and on enhanced cooperation.

In the absence of public sessions, I have chosen to make today’s blog about some of last weeks’ activities which set the scene for this week’s launch of the International Year of Forests and the two-day High Level Segment discussions to take place on 2nd and 3rd February. These will culminate in a UNFF9 Ministerial Declaration on the Multiple Values of Forests.

There was an interesting Forum Round Table on ‘Forests, Food Security, Energy, Women and Youth’ which, despite its catch-all title managed to provoke a lively discussion among delegates about the vital role of women in forest use and management. It was conceded that their tenurial rights to forests were unlikely to change any time soon but noted that institutional mechanisms such as women-only cooperatives and management committees greatly strengthened their ability to pursue their own management and production goals.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) side meeting on Forests and Food Security focused on some of the same issues, and also noted how - even inside FAO - food security was not yet seen as a forest issue, and that this has to change.

Some of the plenary sessions touched on tenure and the devolution of forests to local management. It is very striking how threatened by this several major Asian forest countries feel, by contrast with Latin American and African delegates.

So UNFF’s advancement of a multi-sectoral, cross-sectoral and cross institutional approach to forests, its stress on the role of forests in sustainable development, and on their potential contribution to the Millennium Development Goals, remain admirable, but are quite far from being realized so far in most countries. The working group will have discussed ways forward on these issues, and also the implications of a more inclusive approach to the multiple values of forests in climate change negotiations.

We look forward to the announcements of progress made in these working groups, and to tomorrow’s plenary, and hope that we shall not be snowed in again by then.

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