10 February 2005

Forests Central to Anti-Poverty, Sustainable Development Efforts, Says Secretary-General in Message to Brazzaville Summit

NEW YORK, 7 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the Second Summit of Heads of State and Government of Central Africa on the Conservation and Sustainable Management of the Central African Forest Ecosystems, delivered by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme, in Brazzaville, 5 February:

It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings and best wishes to this timely Summit meeting.

Forests play a central role in our efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development.  They provide livelihoods for millions of people.  They are watersheds.  They absorb carbon, helping to fight climate change.  Their capacity to retain water offers safeguards against flooding and erosion.  And the genetic resources found in forests are the basis for many advances in medicine and food security.  Dense tropical rainforests, such as those found in Central Africa, provide an especially wide range of economic, social and environmental functions and services.

Only a balanced approach, such as that of sustainable forest management, will allow us to enjoy these and other benefits over the long term.  Partnerships among the major stakeholders -- including private companies and local communities, especially indigenous peoples -- can contribute significantly.  I would like to express appreciation to all those involved in efforts aimed at the conservation and sustainable management of Central Africa’s forest ecosystems.  Harmonizing your policies and actions across frontiers is also an essential contribution to stability and peace in the region.

The United Nations system will continue to support these efforts.

In May, the United Nations Forum on Forests will consider future international arrangements for the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests worldwide.  In September, United Nations Member States will convene a Summit to review progress made in implementing the Millennium Declaration.  As we look ahead to these important meetings, we will need your active engagement -- not only in highlighting the crucial role of forests in sustainable development, but also on the wider agenda of change and renewal.  In that spirit of partnership, please accept my best wishes for a successful Summit.

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