Features & Commentary
2011: International Year of Forests
The Director of the United Nations Division on Forests and head of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) Secretariat, Jan McAlpine, highlights the role the International Year of Forests will play in bringing critical attention to the world's forests.
The United Nations General Assembly designated 2011 the International Year of Forests (Forests 2011) to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.
Throughout Forests 2011, events will be organized around the world at the national, regional and local level. All events will capture the message of Forests 2011 – a celebration of the many wonders of forests and their special relationship to the people who depend on them. There are great success stories the world over of people sustainably managing their forests for shelter, food, income, medicine and clean water; for income, trade, sustenance and a way of life. These stories exist and are plentiful.
A central event of Forests 2011 is the International Film Festival. Launched in conjunction with the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in Wyoming, USA, we received more than 170 films submissions from more than 25 countries across six categories. Each film had a unique story to tell, stories that can help inspire and encourage action.
One film, “The Man Who Stopped the Desert,” followed the story of Yacouba Sawadogo, an illiterate peasant farmer from Burkina Faso, Africa, who transformed the lives of thousands across the Sahel region of Africa. Through an ancient agricultural planting technique that he pioneered on his own, Sawadogo brought trees to a barren land, helped them grow and flourish and improved the lives of all in that region.
The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) Secretariat will also be running a “Forest Heroes” campaign, to help highlight the stories of those whose dedication to forests and forests issues deserve special recognition. Throughout Forests 2011, nominations will be accepted and winners announced, having their stories shared with the world through the Forests 2011 website.
Part of the power of the International Year of Forests is that it is a global event, with events organized by many different governments and groups. While the UNFF has been designated as the focal point for implementation of Forests 2011, the central idea is “we provide the platform, you provide the action,” and we have received many pledges to action. Germany is holding their launch event during the International Green Week in Berlin from 21-30 January. China is holding a national tree planting day on 12 March. Israel will launch its “Green Belt” seedling planting program. Schools, museums and other organizations are holding Forests 2011 exhibits. These events are but a few of the countless activities being held throughout Forests 2011.
Forests 2011 will be an unprecedented opportunity to bring attention to forests throughout the world. The spotlight on forests and climate change, and particularly the growth of REDD+ with crucial support from the UN-REDD Programme, has provided extensive political commitment and financial resources for forests. At the same time, Forests 2011 provides the opportunity for increased visibility of forests and their importance among the wider public, both in developed and developing countries. Through this linkage, Forests 2011 and REDD+ are helping us work in synergy to ensure that forests are sustainably managed in the near future so that present and future generations can continue to enjoy the wonders of the world’s forests.
|Jan McAlpine is Director of the United Nations Division on Forests and head of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) Secretariat, based at UN Headquarters in New York. |