• India
  • May 14

Explainer - United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF)

• India participated in the 19th Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) held at the UN headquarters in New York from May 6 to 10.

• India informed the UNFF that the country has made significant advancements in forest conservation and management, leading to a consistent increase in forest cover over the past 15 years.

• Globally, India ranks third in the net gain in average annual forest area between 2010 and 2020.

• In October 2023, India hosted the Country-Led Initiative under UNFF in Dehradun, attended by representatives from 40 countries and 20 international organisations, focusing on forest fire management and forest certification. 

• The recommendations from this initiative were presented during UNFF 19.

• UNFF 19 culminated in a declaration to take urgent and accelerated actions to halt deforestation and forest degradation and to prevent land degradation, including the implementation of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests and the achievement of the Global Forest Goals. 

United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF)

• The importance of forests to sustainable development was brought into sharp focus at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992.

• During the conference, countries had intense negotiations over whether or not to have a forest convention to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.

• Although the countries eventually failed to agree on a forest convention they managed to agree on the Non-legally Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of all Types of Forests, also known as the Forest Principles, as well as Chapter 11 of Agenda 21: Combating Deforestation.

• The international dialogue on forest policies continued under the United Nations through the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF).

• In October 2000, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) established the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF). The UNFF was established as part of a new international arrangement on forests.

• India is a founding member of UNFF.

• UNFF is a subsidiary body with the main objective to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end based on the Rio Declaration, the Forest Principles, Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 and the outcome of the IPF/IFF Processes and other key milestones of international forest policy.

Its functions include:

i) Facilitating implementation of forest-related agreements and fostering a common understanding on sustainable forest management.

ii) Providing for continued policy development and dialogue among governments, international organisations, and major groups, in a holistic, comprehensive and integrated manner.

iii) Enhancing cooperation and policy and programme coordination on forest-related issues.

iv) Monitoring, assessing and reporting on progress towards, and strengthening political commitment for, sustainable forest management.

• Since its inception, the Forum has reached notable milestones including the adoption of the first UN Forest Instrument in 2007, the creation of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN) in 2015 and the adoption of the first UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 in 2017. 

• The UNFF Secretariat, in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, works to track progress in the implementation of the Strategic Plan.

• The UNFF has universal membership, and is composed of all Member States of the United Nations and specialised agencies.

• The Forum meets annually at the UN Headquarters in New York, bringing together representatives of all Member States and forests-related agencies. 

• Every four years, a new ‘Quadrennial Programme of Work of the Forum’ sets out the operational and thematic priorities for upcoming UNFF sessions.

• In recognition of the extraordinary importance of forests to people, the UN General Assembly has designated March 21 as the International Day of Forests, which is celebrated around the world each year to raise awareness and action on forest issues.

UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030

• Forests cover about 30 per cent of the Earth’s land area, or nearly four  billion hectares, and are essential to human wellbeing, sustainable development and the health of the planet. 

• An estimated 1.6 billion people (25 per cent of the global population) depend on forests for subsistence, livelihood, employment and income generation.

• Forests provide essential ecosystem services, such as timber, food, fuel, fodder, non-wood products and shelter, as well as soil and water conservation and clean air. Forests prevent land degradation and desertification and reduce the risk of floods, landslides and avalanches, droughts, dust and sand storms and other disasters. 

• Forests are home to an estimated 80 per cent of all terrestrial species. 

• Forests contribute substantially to climate change mitigation and adaptation and in conserving biodiversity.

• In April 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted the first ever UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030. 

• The agreement was forged at a special session of the UN Forum on Forests held in January 2017 and provides an ambitious vision for global forests in 2030.

• The Strategic Plan provides a global framework for actions at all levels to sustainably manage all types of forests and trees outside forests and halt deforestation and forest degradation. 

• The Plan includes groundbreaking targets to increase forest area globally by 3 per cent or 120 million hectares, and to eradicate extreme poverty for all forest dependent people, by 2030.

• At the heart of the Strategic Plan are six Global Forest Goals and 26 associated targets to be achieved by 2030, which are voluntary and universal. 

• They support the objectives of the International Arrangement on Forests and aim to contribute to progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the Paris Agreement adopted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and other international forest-related instruments, processes, commitments and goals.

Global Forest Goals

i) Reverse the loss of forest cover worldwide through sustainable forest management, including protection, restoration, afforestation and reforestation, and increase efforts to prevent forest degradation and contribute to the global effort of addressing climate change.

ii) Enhance forest-based economic, social and environmental benefits, including by improving the livelihoods of forest dependent people. 

iii) Increase significantly the area of protected forests worldwide and other areas of sustainably managed forests, as well as the proportion of forest products from sustainably managed forests.

iv) Mobilise significantly increased, new and additional financial resources from all sources for the implementation of sustainable forest management and strengthen scientific and technical cooperation and partnerships.

v) Promote governance frameworks to implement sustainable forest management, including through the UN Forest Instrument, and enhance the contribution of forests to the 2030 Agenda.

vi) Enhance cooperation, coordination, coherence and synergies on forest-related issues at all levels, including within the UN system and across collaborative partnership on member organisations, as well as across sectors and relevant stakeholders.

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