Delegates Gather in NY for Talks to Safeguard the Planet's Forests

New York - Delegates from around the world gathered for UN-backed talks Monday aimed at safeguarding the planet's forests as well as the livelihoods of the hundreds of millions of people whom depend upon such green zones. The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) is meeting for two weeks to explore international arrangements that can control deforestation, promote sustainable forest management and acknowledge the ways that forests play a key part in economic development.

Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, today told the opening of the forum's Sixth Session that the alarming rate of deforestation is a major threat to sustainable development and affects some of the world's poorest people. "Given the impact on forests of population expansion, economic growth and environmental instability, it is not surprising [forest issues] have been at the centre of several international negotiations," said Mr. Ocampo, noting that forests cover a third of the planet's land surface.

He added that global trade in primary and secondary forest products total $200 billion annually. "Sustainable forest management has become a major policy objective for many countries," he said.

Judith Mbula Bahemuka, Kenya's Representative to the UN, who is chairing the session, said global leaders gathered at the 2005 World Summit in September emphasized that forest issues cut across many developmental sectors, and international that cooperation can help sustainable forest management benefit current and future generations.

The proposals for action at the UNFF session have evolved from meetings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) from 1995 to 1997 and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) from 1997 to 2000, both under the auspices of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

Over the past 15 years, forest issues have played a prominent role in international policy and political agendas and were a controversial topic at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio. The conference developed the Forest Principals after intensive negotiations and included material on combating deforestation in the summit's end document, Agenda 21.