Thursday, November 26, 2015

A year-long celebration of vital role of world’s forests

Recognizing the role that forests play in everything from mitigating climate change to providing wood, medicines and livelihoods for people worldwide, the United Nations today kicked off a year-long celebration to raise awareness of the value of this important resource.

“Forests for People” is the main theme of the International Year of Forests, which was launched at a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York attended by world leaders, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai and forest experts.

The General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, on which at least 1.6 billion people depend for their daily livelihoods and subsistence needs. Forests are also home to over 60 million people, mainly members of indigenous and local communities, who reside in forests.

“By declaring 2011 as the International Year of Forests, the United Nations General Assembly has created an important platform to educate the global community about the great value of forests – and the extreme social, economic and environmental costs of losing them,” noted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Today’s launch ceremony, presided over by General Assembly President Joseph Deiss, is part of the high-level segment of the UN Forum on Forests, an intergovernmental policy forum dealing with forest-related issues. “Every one of us, all seven billion people on earth, has our physical, economic and spiritual health tied to the health of our forest ecosystems,” noted Jan McAlpine, the Director of the Forum’s Secretariat. “Throughout 2011, we will celebrate this intricate, interdependent relationship between forests and people,” she said.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), also noted that forests represent many things to many people including spiritual, aesthetic and cultural dimensions that are, in many ways, priceless. “But they are also cornerstones of our economies, whose real value has all too often been invisible in national accounts of profit and loss,” he added.

Forests cover about 31 per cent of total land area, amounting to just under 4 billion hectares, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which today released its “State of the World’s Forests” report.

The report, which is published every two years, stresses that the forest industry forms an important part of a “greener” economy and wood products have environmental attributes that would appeal to people.

The industry is responding to numerous environmental and social concerns by improving sustainability of resource use, using more waste materials to make products, increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions. For example, 37 per cent of total forest production in 2010 came from recovered paper, wood waste and non-wood fibres, a figure that is likely to grow to up to 45 per cent in 2030, with much of that growth from China and India.

“What we need during the International Year of Forests is to emphasize the connection between people and forests, and the benefits that can accrue when forests are managed by local people in sustainable and innovative ways,” said Eduardo Rojas, FAO’s Forestry Director.

Ms. Maathai noted in her address at the launch, as well as in a briefing to reporters, that the value of the International Year is the opportunity to “explore the value of the trees, the forests and the environment, as well as the value of the environmental services that these resources give us.”

She added that too often forests and the services they provide are taken for granted and seen as resources that are unlimited. “But we all know now that we are facing situations where these forests are disappearing,” she told reporters.

As part of the launch, international filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand will premiere his short film “FOREST.” The ceremony also featured clips from winning films from the International Forest Film Festival which was organised by the UN Forum on Forest Secretariat in collaboration with the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.


On Behalf of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Ambassador Zahir Tanin spoke at a round table session on “Forests for People.”  He described the dramatic changes in the Afghan forest coverage over the last thirty years.  “As a result of the absence of forest management and poor agricultural practices amongst other contributing factors due to decades of conflict and instability,” he said, “forests cover less than 3% of total land area in Afghanistan today.” Ambassador Tanin explained the necessity of preserving forests in order to serve as a primary energy source as well as for their non-timber products.

According to Ambassador Tanin, “UN Environmental Protection experts predict that at the current rate of deforestation, Afghanistan’s forests will disappear within 30 years if collective action is not taken to reverse the destruction.”  The government of Afghanistan, he explained, is working to address the issue through the adoption of a national plan to improve policies in relation to forests.

UN Debates PeaceBuilding: Afghan Ambassador Calls for National Ownership, End to Taliban Violence

On January 21st, the United Nations Security Council debated post-conflict peace-building and Institution building. After opening remarks by the Secretary General, the Vice Prime Minister of Timor Leste, Jose Luis Guterres, spoke on behalf of G7+, a new group of conflict affected and fragile states, providing a unique perspective on the subject.  Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany then addressed the Council as chair of the Peacebuilding Commission.

Security Council Meeting: Open debate on Post-Conflict peacebuilding.

Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, expressed the need for institution building as an essential component for lasting peace in Afghanistan.  He reminded that in the “ubiquitous debate on the current situation in Afghanistan, it is easy to overlook the thirty years of conflict that Afghanistan has overcome.”  While Afghanistan was thought of as the most failed state in the world in 2001, it has made significant progress toward stabilization considering its context, he said.

Afghanistan’s reintegration and reconciliation process was highlighted in Ambassador Tanin’s statement.  He invited members of the armed opposition to put down their arms, renounce violence, and join the peace process.  He addressed the Taliban directly, “Now that we have come halfway, it is the Taliban’s turn to fulfill its responsibility. If the Taliban wants to join the peace talks, it must end violence and terrorist attacks…and sever ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”

In keeping with a common theme emphasized by most member states in this debate, national ownership was underscored as vital for sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

Video of Security Council Meeting: Post-conflict peacebuilding

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Security Council Meeting: Post-conflict peacebuilding

Security Council Debate on The Situation in Afghanistan

Statement By H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

at the Security Council Debate on The Situation in Afghanistan

New York

Madame President,


Ladies and gentlemen,

First please allow me to congratulate you on your Presidency of the Council for the month of December. I would like to also thank the Secretary General for his most recent report, and Special Representative Staffan De Mistura for his informative briefing and dedicated leadership of UNAMA.

Madame President,

We have arrived at the end of an eventful and historic year in Afghanistan. The year began with the London Conference, followed by the Peace Jirga, Kabul Conference, the second parliamentary elections and NATO Summit in Lisbon. This year, while we have made momentous strides towards defining and strengthening our relationship with international partners, we sought to re-engage the Afghan people in all efforts to bring peace and security to our country, enhance collaboration with regional partners and reach out to the armed opposition.

Madame President,

The Lisbon Summit was a milestone towards reassuring an enduring partnership between Afghanistan and NATO. Among the key outcomes of the conference, we adopted the framework of transition to greater Afghan leadership over the next four years, through a province by province approach.  High level mechanisms which include key national and international stakeholders have been established to oversee the transition process.  The new year will mark the launch of the transition process.  Practical preparations are underway to that end. The commitment of our international partners to sustained and expedited recruitment, training and resourcing of the Afghan national army and police, will constitute a key component of their redefined mission.

The Lisbon Summit sent three key messages: first – a message to the Afghan people that the international community will not leave Afghanistan and will remain engaged with the Afghan people for the long haul; second – a message to terrorists and extremists that they will fail in their efforts to take Afghanistan back to the days of tyranny and oppression; and third – a message for the region that cooperation is vital; our neighbors have a role and a stake in the security and the stability of Afghanistan.

Madame President,

Improving security, which remains a top priority of the Afghan government, has been a key focus of the Afghan and ISAF forces. Despite isolated incidents of attacks and suicide bombings by the Taliban and other extremists, overall security has improved. The latest assessments show that the ISAF and Afghan forces for the first time in the last two years have begun to regain the military initiative.  This is particularly the case in southern provinces which once saw high levels of insecurity. The zone of security has expanded, with Afghan security forces exerting greater presence and control in areas previously held by enemy combatants.

Such success has a direct effect on public perception. In the Afghan villages, specifically in the south, people acknowledge the progress being made, and have begun to engage with local authorities and the Afghan and international forces. Consolidating the support of the local populace is vital for a successful international engagement in Afghanistan. In this context, emphasis must continue to be placed on ensuring basic services for Afghans as well as avoiding civilian casualties during military operations. We welcome increased measures of coordination among international forces and the review of tactics in order to prevent harm to local communities.

Madame President,

It is now clear to all that an end to the sanctuaries in the region is crucial to the success of the international campaign to stabilize the region and eliminate the threat of terrorism. We cannot underestimate the need to address sanctuaries and safe-havens in the region which operate as the “command and control headquarters” for terrorists and extremists. Without progress on this front, all our efforts will go in vain.

Madame President,

Our recent parliamentary elections, the second since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, reaffirmed the commitment of the Afghan people to the democratic process.  Millions of Afghans braved security threats and cast their votes to elect members of the National Assembly.  Nobody expected a perfect election process. The circumstances under which the elections took place gave way to irregularities including the closing of polling stations and the discounting of many votes by election bodies.  As it has been announced, the new parliament will be inaugurated in late January.

Madame President,

The Afghan government continues to focus on enhancing our relationships with our neighbors in the region.  Effective regional cooperation is indispensable for solving the many challenges facing Afghanistan and countries in the region. We maintain high level communications with the government of Pakistan for wider cooperation in the fight against terrorism and for promoting peace, stability and economic development in both our countries.

We continue to strengthen cooperation with all neighbors in the region.  Afghanistan holds a unique standing, in which it is increasingly positioned to serve as an economic hub or an Asian Roundabout in the greater region.

A historical event occurred on the 11th of December in Ashqabat during the summit meeting of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) with the signing of the important agreements for the implementation of the gas pipeline project. The summit was a key step for the realization of the regional framework of cooperation in providing energy and energy security.

Madame President,

With the beginning of the transition process, reintegration and reconciliation will be pursued as a matter of high priority in Afghanistan. In fact, reconciliation is becoming an essential political dimension of the transition strategy.  For reconciliation to work, the Taliban must be ready to engage sincerely in peace talks; but for reconciliation to succeed, the Taliban must put down their arms, renounce violence and choose the path of peace. Success lies in maintaining our key asset, Afghan leadership and ownership of the reconciliation process.  There is also a role for others – the International Community, the region, and the United Nations- to support the Afghan government to succeed in its reconciliation efforts.

Madame President,

The Afghan government has worked diligently toward implementing our goals in security, development, and governance. Recent progress in all three of these areas is outlined in the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB)’s Progress Report on the Afghanistan National Development Strategy,  released in November.

The results overall were highly encouraging, particularly in the areas of governance, national transparency and accountability. In the first 100 days since the Kabul Conference, 95% of planned activities were completed for creating an efficient and effective government, including recruitment of 24 new district governors and the drafting of new anti-corruption laws. The Afghan government will continue to pursue effective and timely implementation of all national priority strategies.  In this regard, we are monitoring progress and challenges in relation to all programs through the recently established monitoring mechanism.

Madame President,

The most important assessment of the situation in Afghanistan comes from Afghans themselves. Public opinion in Afghanistan, according to recent surveys, reflects that the majority of Afghans continue to positively assess their government, support national reconciliation efforts, and most importantly, they share the perspective that the country is heading in the right direction.

Madame President,

As transition begins, there are clear roles for both the Afghan government and for the International Community. In the four years ahead, the measure of success will be determined by the strength of the partnership of the international community and Afghanistan.  The focus of this partnership must be on building the Afghan government’s capacity to take responsibility.  The transition process goes far beyond the training of Afghan security forces; our partnership must actively address not only security, but development and governance.

Madame President,

A stable and prosperous Afghanistan requires unity of understanding, unity of efforts, and unity of action.  And I assure you that we will spare no effort to do our part.

I thank you.