What a week! Friday 4 February

As you’ve heard from other bloggers, this week saw the International Year of Forests (Forests 2011) launched with a bang by the 9th UN Forum on Forests (UNFF9), says IUCN's Senior Forest Policy Advisor, Carole Saint-Laurent.

Carole Saint Laurent, Senior Forestry Policy Advisor Photo: IUCN

This included the ground-breaking announcement by Rwanda that they will restore their lands country-wide by 2035. IUCN, the UNFF Secretariat, Canada and the Global Environment Fun d pledged their support to the Rwanda initiative and other potential partners are lining up.Providing a platform and timetable for just this sort of announcement – for catalyzing commitment – is a critical role for the UN Forum on Forests.

This is the case, no matter what sort of consensus-based ministerial declarations and resolutions are being negotiated. These are based on the lowest-common denominator so do not reflect individual leadership. Delegates were negotiating until the early hours of this morning with a contentious issue being whether to include reference to the decisions of other forest-related fora, such as biodiversity and climate change conventions. The UNFF is special in the UN system in that all 192 members of the UN are members of the UNFF, which is not the case with the conventions.

Another role for the UNFF is to bring political attention to emerging issues, which do not have a natural home in any other fora or that cut across different fora and require an integrated approach. We’ve seen this first hand with forest landscape restoration. This session’s focus on forests and people created opportunities to bring out the latest thinking on this, including IUCN’s cutting edge work on removing barriers to locally controlled forests.

Finally, the UNFF sessions bring together the forest community: representatives of government ministries responsible for forests and international and non-governmental organizations. Not to be discounted is the opportunity the UNFF sessions provide for us all to catch up with each other in the margins of the official sessions, where many implementation partnerships are forged and strengthened.

What all this means is that the UNFF should be judged on the basis of all of these different roles, not only on the quality of its negotiated outcomes. So much needs to be done to halt and reverse the loss and degradation of forests. A platform for increasing the profile of key issues and for catalyzing leadership and partnerships has an important role to play in this.

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