World Forestry Congress Opens with Launch of Global Forest Resources Assessment Report
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The 14th World Forestry Congress (WFC XIV) opened on 7 September 2015, in Durban, South Africa, convening on the theme 'Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future.' The opening was marked by the launch of the 'Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015,' the most comprehensive forest review to date, produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).

It was preceded by a high-level event of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), aiming to define CPF's vision for forests and forestry in the post-2015 era.

WFC_XIV7 September 2015: The 14th World Forestry Congress (WFC XIV) opened on 7 September 2015, in Durban, South Africa, convening on the theme ‘Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future.’ The opening was marked by the launch of the ‘Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015,’ the most comprehensive forest review to date, produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO). It was preceded by a high-level event of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), aiming to define CPF’s vision for forests and forestry in the post-2015 era.

The World Forestry Congress aims to: clarify why it is so important to recognize forests and forestry as an integral part of sustainable development, from local to national and international levels; identify, analyze and raise awareness of the major issues facing the sector and propose new forms of technical, scientific and policy actions that will result in forests’ greater sustainability by linking sound policy to feasible practice; serve as a key venue in 2015 for the world’s foresters and partners to share their knowledge and latest findings; provide a global showcase for the latest developments and innovations in forests and forestry; and ensure that critical issues are visibly addressed and that all key stakeholders are given a platform where the voice of the constituencies they represent will be heard.

WFC XIV will explore how to sustainably tap forests, which as one of the world’s key resources, play a role in income generation, employment creation and equity, climate change, biodiversity conservation and the sustainability of water resources. It will also explore the governance structures that best promote implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests. Sub-theme dialogues will address: the role of forests in socioeconomic development and food security; building resilience through forests; integration with other land uses; forest product innovation and sustainable trade; better decision making due to forest monitoring practices; and improving governance through capacity building. In addition to these, high-level politicians and internationally-recognized experts will discuss the global forest agenda; an innovation and investment forum will explore the forest sector’s role in alleviating global challenges; the international forests and water dialogue will launch a forests and water action plan; and a business networking event will aim to strengthen private sector engagement, investments and partnerships.

The opening of WFC XIV was marked by the launch of the ‘Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015,’ which covers 234 countries and territories. It shows that the world’s forests continue to shrink as populations increase and woodlands are converted to agriculture and other uses, however, over the past 25 years, the rate of net global deforestation has slowed down by more than 50%. The publication reports that Africa and South America had the highest net annual loss of forests in 2010-2015, with 2.8 and 2 million hectares respectively, but it notes how the rate of loss has ‘substantially decreased’ from the previous five year period. An increasing amount of forest areas have come under protection while more countries are improving forest management. This is often done through legislation and includes the measuring and monitoring of forest resources and a greater involvement of local communities in planning and in developing policies. Globally, natural forest area is decreasing and planted forest area is increasing and while most forests remain publicly owned, ownership by individuals and communities has increased. The publication stresses the critical importance of forests to people, the environment and the global economy. The report estimates that total carbon emissions from forests decreased by more than 25% between 2001 and 2015, mainly due to a slowdown in global deforestation rates.

Pre-Congress events included a high-level CPF dialogue, which gathered the leaders of the CPF’s 14 member organizations to discuss their vision for forests and forestry in the post-2015 era; and the event, ‘Building Momentum for Community-based Forestry, Forest and Farm Producer Organizations,’ at the conclusion of which, indigenous peoples, local communities and forest and farm producer organizations agreed on a global declaration asserting that the solution to a sustainable future for forests lies in investing in forest peoples.

The first WFC was held in 1926 in Rome, Italy and has generally taken place every six years since then. Organized by FAO and hosted by the South African Government, WFC XIV will run from 7-11 September 2015. [IISD RS Coverage of WFC XIV] [WFC XIV Website, including webcast] [FAO Press Release on Global Forest Resources Assessment] [Publication: Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015: How are the World’s Forests Changing?] [FAO Press Release on CPF High-Level Event] [CPF Website] [FAO Press Release on Forest and Farm Producer Organizations Declaration]


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