Press Releases

    19 March 2002


    NEW YORK, 18 March (UN Headquarters) -- Ministers attending the United Nations Forum on Forests have issued a call today for the World Summit on Sustainable Development to advance sustainable forest management as a way to alleviate poverty and stem land and forest degradation. The Forum’s second current session concluded Friday in New York.

    The Summit, which will take place in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September, is expected to result in action-oriented initiatives that promote economic growth, social development, and environmental protection.

    Forestry issues, the ministers agreed, must be considered as a priority agenda item at the Summit, and they called for an "enhanced" political commitment to promote sustainable forest management. They also emphasized the importance of financing to progress toward sustainable forest management, as well as partnerships to help transfer environmentally sound technologies to help countries manage their forests sustainably.

    Although forests cover roughly a third of all the Earth’s land surface, the world’s forests are continuing to decline, especially in the tropics. In the 1990s, the world lost about 9.4 million hectares of forest, or two per cent of the world’s total forests -- an area the size of Venezuela.

    The ministers called for new initiatives that confront some of the root causes of deforestation, such as the direct relationship between high levels of poverty and areas that suffer the highest rates of deforestation, such as the tropical forests. The illegal trade in forest products was a major concern to the ministers, who called for immediate action to beef up domestic forest law enforcement efforts.

    "We’ve discussed forest issues for over a decade now, and we know what needs to be done," said Nitin Desai, Secretary-General of the Johannesburg Summit. "What we need now are actions and initiatives that can help meet the needs of the people who live in or around the forests while protecting and preserving our forest ecosystems."

    He added, "The strong message that the ministers at the Forest Forum are sending to the Summit indicates that it is urgent that the international community and national governments show even greater resolve to move the forest agenda forward so we can get results."

    For more information, contact Klomjit Chandrapanya, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel (212) 963-9495 or e-mail

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