"We have to fight against a worrying situation in order to save the threatened forests of this planet" said H.S.H Prince Albert II of Monaco at the high level conference in the European Parliament (EP) celebrating the 2011 - International Year of Forests. The two-day event from the 6 to 7 September 2011 included debates and exhibitions showing the paramount importance of achieving and maintaining a balance among the multiple benefits of forests.
“We must unlock the true potential of Europe’s forests as an engine of green growth across the continent, as well as recognising its major economic, social and environmental assets” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Latest research indicates that 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood. In the face of climate change and the unprecedented economic crisis, forests have a prominent role to play in sustainable economic development and poverty alleviation. Demonstrating that, “with its emphasis on the transition to a green economy – and its finance and human rights aspects”, Chris Vanden Bilcke, Head of UNEP Brussels concluded that “Rio +20 will have a major impact on forest policy.”
Achieving sustainability requires strengthening global governance, strong international cooperation and the implementation and enforcement of laws. Successful partnerships built with key countries such as Indonesia and Brazil through the Norwegian Government’s Climate and Forest Initiative - REDD+ (Reduction Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation)- "generate political commitments, emission reductions, and valuable lessons learned" said Ambassador Hans Brattskar from the Norwegian Ministry of Environment.
Taking action hand in hand with local population and regional foresters is fundamental. Successful public and private programmes such as FUTUREforest, FLEG (Forest Law Enforcement and Governance) and the conservation programme led by Air France in Madagascar have demonstrated the added value of public participation in the decision making process. Furthermore, education and knowledge sharing are "necessary for a common understanding of the problems and for a coherent approach to the challenges faced”, added Dr Sjur Baardsen from COST, European Cooperation in Science and Technology, who also stressed that dialogue between the scientific and the political world should be fostered.
Calling for “a holistic approach towards forests involving all players and including all policies”, MEP Gaston Franco, Chair of the “Forestry” Group of the EP Intergroup “Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development, concluded that “local population should find an economic interest in preserving forests.”
The conference brought together over 250 participants including high level experts from International, European and National Institutions, renowned scientists, NGOs and the private sector. It was organised by the EP Intergroup “Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development” run jointly by the European Bureau for Conservation and Development (EBCD) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in partnership with the seven Interreg IVc FUTUREforest regions, Foundation Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Mission of Norway to the EU, Air France, COST, EEA and UNEP.
The conclusions and the presentations of the conference will be available shortly on the EBCD website.