The Launch of the International Year of Forests
The International Year of Forests (Forests 2011)— a year-long celebration of the vital role that forests play in people’s lives — was launched on Wednesday, 2 February at a ceremony attended by world leaders, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai and United Nations forest experts.
|The launch ceremony for Forests 2011 took place in the UN General Assembly hall in New York City, coinciding with the High Level Ministerial Segment of the ninth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests. |
Credits: Benjamin Singer, UNFF Secretariat
Global observance of Forests 2011 comes amid growing recognition of the role that sustainably managed forests play in everything from mitigating climate change to providing wood, medicines and livelihoods for people around the world.
General Assembly President Joseph Deiss presided over the ceremony, held in the General Assembly Hall in New York City. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon opened the ceremony with a video message.
“By declaring 2011 as the International Year of Forests,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “the United Nations General Assembly has created an important platform to educate the global community about the great value of forests — and the extreme social, economic and environmental costs of losing them.”
Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted in his speech, “Political interest in forests is on the rise, but we need to use this International Year as a way to translate this interest into action.”
Rwanda Minister of Environment and Lands, Stanislas Kamanzi, announced that by 2035, Rwanda would achieve a “country-wide reversal of the current degradation of soil, land, water and forest resources in such a way that demonstrably improves the quality and resilience of and provides new opportunities for rural livelihoods.” In the short term, he added, by 2015, Rwanda had committed to developing a comprehensive action plan for that initiative as well as to support forest restoration activities in line with national development priorities.
Nobel Laureate and United Nations Messenger of Peace for Environment and Climate Change, Wangari Maathai, in her keynote speech said, “human history and civilizations have always been intertwined with trees and forests-- the way we use them, relate to them, protect and conserve them and the way they enhance our spiritual, cultural, and social well-being."
To close the ceremony, a Children’s Declaration was delivered to the Forum by “Plant for the Planet” founder Felix Finkbeiner. Finkbeiner, 13, delivered an impassioned call to the world’s children for action in protecting forests. “For us children, the forests are the future,” he said, noting that young people formed the majority of the world’s population and could make a difference. He called on the international community to undertake a campaign to plant a trillion trees. “Stop talking, and start planting,” he said, adding that it was time for the world’s people — old and young, rich and poor — to work together to better our future.”
Click here to watch Forest 2011 video addresses
Forest 2011 Film Fest Winners
The medium of film was an important aspect to the launch ceremony. Each speaker was followed by a clip from one of the winning films of the International Forest Film Festival. There were winners across six categories, a Best of Festival award, and four special Judges’ Awards.
|Felix Finkbeiner (left), age 13, founder of the Plant-for-the-Planet initiative, closed the ceremony by presenting the "Children's Declaration" and H.E. Joseph Deiss (right) president of the 65th session of the General Assembly, presided over the ceremony. |
Credits: Benjamin Singer, UNFF Secretariat
Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, introduced an animated PSA that the UNFF had commissioned for the International Year of Forests. The 30-second video clip showcased the importance of forests in our everyday lives, and is now available to the public online. Ms. McAlpine pointed out that “every one of us, all 7 billion people on earth, has our physical, economic and spiritual health tied to the health of our forest ecosystems", adding that, “Throughout 2011, we will celebrate this intricate, interdependent relationship between forests and people.”
International Filmmaker and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Yann Arthus-Bertrand premiered his short film “Of Forests and Men,” made especially to commemorate the International Year of Forests. The video will be available to the public, free of charge and copyright, through Mr. Arthus-Bertrand’s website.