International Day of Forests 2021

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Statement by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw

This year’s International Day of Forests theme of ‘Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being’ emphasizes the role forests must play in building a better, heathier and more equitable world as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We need forests to absorb our emitted carbon dioxide, to stabilize rainfall patterns, lower temperatures, and to hold back desertification. Yet, we continue to destroy them: an alarming fifty million hectares of forests have been lost between 2015 and 2020. Research suggests tree mortality in some forests has doubled in recent decades as a result of a drying climate and chronic anthropogenic disturbance.

Ensuring that forests don’t just survive but thrive is a cornerstone of the UNCCD’s mandate to achieve land degradation neutrality. The seedlings and saplings we plant today will support our well-being for generations to come. 

Africa’s Great Green Wall across the Sahel has the potential to transform the lives of millions of humanity’s most vulnerable people. By creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes, it can provide stability, livelihoods and a path out of poverty. We’ll create green jobs, harnessing the Sahel’s abundant solar energy to power a future for those most at risk. We are not just planting trees –we are planting hope for the most vulnerable – women and youth.  We can restore forests and restore hope, in tandem. We can turn the economic catastrophe of the COVID-19 pandemic into a better, heathier and more equitable world.

Forests are also threatened by human conflict. In politically unstable situations, the management of natural resources is challenging. Rapid reconstruction often neglects sustainable management of natural resources, undermining future peace. The Peace Forest Initiative, launched at UNCCD COP 14, aims to nurture collective efforts for cross-border cooperation on ecosystem restoration including forests, linking stability and peace to land degradation neutrality.

This year, let us reaffirm our will to act. Seeing our forests renewed will help humanity recover better, become more resilient, and restore our planet’s health – for all our futures.

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