22 March 2018
World Celebrates International Day of Forests 2018
UN Photo/Kibae Park
story highlights

The international community celebrated the 2018 International Day of Forests on 21 March, with events and publication launches around the world, focusing on theme 'Forests and Sustainable Cities'.

Special events were organized at UN Headquarters in New York, US FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, and the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

FAO launched a new publication on 'Forests and Sustainable Cities - Inspiring Stories from around the World'.

UNEP signed an MOU with Ethiopian Airlines that will 'Plant one tree for every passenger flown'.

21 March 2018: The international community celebrated the 2018 International Day of Forests on 21 March, with events and publication launches around the world. Of particular relevance to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the theme of the Day was ‘Forests and Sustainable Cities,’ to increase awareness of the contributions of forests to sustainable cities, from cooling the environment and saving energy to providing health benefits and drinking water, and building resilience against floods and storms.

A special event was organized at UN Headquarters in New York, US by the Secretariat of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF), with participation from representatives of Member States, and international, regional and non-governmental organizations. The event featured an opening session chaired by UNFF 13 Chair Amb. Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob (Malaysia); a panel discussion on safeguarding forests for sustainable cities and communities; and a general discussion on forests, sustainable cities and the 2030 Agenda.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) celebrated the Day at a special ceremony at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy attended by city administrators from Lima, Peru; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Philadelphia, US; and Mantova, Italy. The event featured the screening of the 2018 International Day of Forests video spot on forests and sustainable cities, and the launch of a FAO publication titled, ‘Forests and Sustainable Cities – Inspiring Stories from around the World.’ The publication highlights different ways in which cities around the globe have used forests and trees to improve the living conditions of their citizens, which may serve as inspiration for others. In 2012, Beijing, China initiated the largest afforestation programme in its history, which resulted in forests now covering more than 25% of the city plain. Karura forest in the central north of Nairobi, Kenya, once a crime-ridden area, has been saved from property development following a public campaign led by environmental activist Wangari Maathai, and has become a source of opportunities and recreation for local people and tourists. In Lima, a municipality afforestation project resulted in a park with trails and family recreation spaces while reducing the threat of natural disasters, including earthquakes and landslides.

Forests and trees in a city perform a huge range of functions, supporting – climate action; clean air; food, energy and water security; improved well-being; and social cohesion.

The latest issue of the FAO forestry publication ‘Unasylva’ is also devoted to urban forestry in celebration of the Day. Looking at urban and peri-urban forestry, including its benefits, pitfalls, governance and challenges, the issue shows that forests and trees in a city perform a huge range of functions, such as regulating climate, storing carbon, removing air pollutants, reducing the risk of flooding, assisting in food, energy and water security, improving the physical and mental health of citizens, and increasing social cohesion.

A special event was also held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, organized by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Housing and Land Management Unit, the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section and the FAO Liaison Office in Geneva. The event showcased unique ways in which forests have gone “vertical,” with speakers presenting innovative ideas on urban farming, wood construction and architecture.

On the occasion, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) circulated a new infographic illustrating the benefits that tropical forests provide cities. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) showcased the battle for reversing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, made possible following the vision provided by the Government of Brazil and GEF support to create a network of protected areas and nature reserves. The Amazon Region Protected Areas programme, initiated in 2002, has exceeded all its targets and has recently been joined by two other key GEF-financed programmes. One will maintain tens of millions of hectares of forest land in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru; the other is an integrated project aiming to promote sustainable agriculture, which will reduce pressure on the dry forests adjoining the Amazon. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP or UN Environment) signed a memorandum of understanding with Ethiopian Airlines, focusing on greening the airlines operations. The memorandum outlines several action areas to promote sustainability, most notably the development of the ‘Plant one tree for every passenger flown’ project, in collaboration with the ongoing REDD+ programme in Ethiopia. The objective of the project is to plant nine million trees in the name of Ethiopian Airlines in different regions of Ethiopia.

Other recent developments of relevance included: two publications on REDD+ in Ethiopia and in Kenya; and the approval of a new US$33 million project, partly funded by GEF, to improve sustainable rural livelihoods and forest protection in Zambia. The publications examine, from a REDD+ point of view, the contribution of forests to national income in Ethiopia, and ways to improve efficiency in forestry operations and forest product processing in Kenya. [UN Press Release] [UN Headquarters Special Event Webpage] [FAO Press Release] [FAO IDF Webpage] [Publication: Forests and Sustainable Cities – Inspiring Stories from around the World] [Publication: Unasylva 250: Forests and Sustainable Cities] [UNECE Press Release] [UNECE IDF Webpage] [ITTO Infographic] [GEF Press Release] [UN Environment Press Release] [World Bank Press Release] [GEF Press Release on Zambia Project] [Publication: The Contribution of Forests to National Income in Ethiopia and Linkages with REDD+] [Publication: Improving Efficiency in Forestry Operations and Forest Product Processing in Kenya: A viable REDD+ Policy and Measure]

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