"Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being" is the theme of the International Day of Forests 2021. The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests in 2012 to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests.
Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter.
Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Yet, despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests in 2012. The Day celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests. On each International Day of Forests, countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organize activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns.
The theme for 2021 is “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being”. Restoring forests helps build a healthier world for ourselves and for future generations. By replanting and managing forests sustainably, we can help preserve our planet’s biodiversity and combat climate change while fostering economic activity that creates jobs and improves lives as we enter the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030).
Launched by the government of Germany and IUCN, the Bonn Challenge is a global goal to bring 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. It unites nations and regions in bringing landscapes into restoration, to halt and reverse the effects of land degradation. At present, pledges cover 210.12 million hectares, with more than 61 countries involved.
Importance of Forests
According to UN-REDD, forests are home to about 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and an estimated 1.6 billion people use forests for all or part of their livelihoods such as food, shelter, energy and income. Millions, including people in cities, depend on forest resources for clean air and fresh water.
During the day, trees absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and give out oxygen, the air that we breathe. The carbon in forests exceeds the amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere. Forests and forest soils store more than one trillion tonnes of carbon.
Hence, forests play a crucial role in fighting catastrophic climate change by absorbing and storing massive amounts of CO2. In addition, trees could reduce temperatures in cities up to 8°C, lowering use of air conditioning and related emissions by up to 40%. But as we cut them down, oftentimes to make space for agriculture, they lose their ability to regulate the global climate.
During heavy rains, trees reduce the risk of flooding. Experts say that woodland acts as a barrier to floodwater, while trees also prevent soil erosion, reducing sediment going into rivers and increasing water absorption into the ground. Forests can also retain excess rainwater, prevent extreme run-offs and reduce the damage of flooding. They can also help mitigate the effects of droughts by releasing water in the dry season, forests can also help provide clean water and mitigate the effects of droughts.
Furthermore, more than a quarter of modern medicines, worth an estimated US$ 108 billion a year, originate from tropical forest plants.
Global Distribution of Forests
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) indicates in its 2020 Report “The State of the World’s Forests” that the total forest area is 4.06 billion hectares, or approximately 5,000m2 (or 50 x 100m) per person, but forests are not equally distributed around the globe.
More than half of the world’s forests are found in only five countries (the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China) and two-thirds (66 percent) of forests are found in ten countries.
Build Back Better and Greener
Forests, through their ecosystem services, are a key nature-based solution for rebuilding the global economy post-pandemic in a way that preserves nature, while fostering growth. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) provides some key insights on how forests can help make us more resilient in the longer term.
Role of Geneva
Geneva and its surrounding area host important international organizations working on forests, presented hereafter by alphabetical order.
Earthworm Foundation, formerly The Forest Trust, works to preserve forests and oceans, while empowering the people that care for our lands and produce our everyday needs. Their projects contribute to a world where forests are a boundless source of materials and a home for biodiversity; communities see their rights respected and have opportunities to develop; workers are seen as productive partners; and agriculture becomes the instrument to feed a hungry planet and keep our climate stable.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Liaison Office Geneva
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is a specialized agency of the UN with a membership of 194 Member States that leads international efforts to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, and for the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources. Its goal is to achieve food security for all, where everyone has regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active and healthy lives. The FAO Liaison Office in Geneva (FAO Geneva), located in the historical Palais des Nations, is one of more than 130 FAO offices worldwide, working with partners to achieve this goal and the wider sustainable development agenda.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
IUCN works to build sustainable landscapes, protect primary forests and advance the rights of forest communities. Through its forest initiatives, the IUCN helps countries implement effective forest and land-use policies, achieve national priorities and meet international commitments on climate change, biodiversity and land degradation.
Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)
The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), is a leading global alliance of national forest certification systems. As an international non-profit, non-governmental organization, PEFC is dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management through independent third-party certification.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
In 1996, UNCTAD launched the BioTrade Initiative to support the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity. BioTrade refers to those activities of collection, production, transformation, and commercialization of goods and services derived from native biodiversity under the criteria of environmental, social and economic sustainability. This includes activities relying on forests and supporting the livelihoods of the people living in or adjacent to forests.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Office in Geneva
The UNDP Climate and Forests Team supports countries with the design and implementation of national policies and measures to reduce deforestation and manage forests sustainably, hence contributing to the mitigation of climate change and advancing sustainable development. The global team has advisors in various duty stations, including Geneva.
The Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) Secretariat, hosted by UNDP Office in Geneva, is an initiative and fund to support the implementation of strategic reforms and multi-sectoral investments for the sustainable management of forests and REDD+ results in the Central African region. CAFI, as a collaborative partnership, gathers 6 Central African countries with high forest cover (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon), a coalition of donors (EU, France, Germany, Norway, UK, the Netherlands and South Korea) and a South-South partner (Brazil).
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
The joint UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section supports developing evidence-based policies for sustainable forest management and to communicates about the many products and ecosystem services provided to society while assisting countries of the region to monitor and manage forests.
United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD)
The UN-REDD Programme was launched in 2008 and builds on the convening role and technical expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Programme supports nationally led REDD+ processes and promotes the informed and meaningful involvement of all stakeholders, including indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities, in national and international REDD+ implementation. Additionally, the programme supports national REDD+ readiness efforts in 65 partner countries, spanning Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
The Forest Solutions Group (FSG) of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is the global platform where business in the forest products value chain build and share solutions to lead sustainable development in the forest sector. FSG’s mission is to advance the bioeconomy and a thriving forest sector that sustains healthy productive forests and people’s well-being.
World Economic Forum (WEF)
The World Economic Forum (WEF) developed Strategic Intelligence that provides insights and contextual intelligence to explore and monitor the issues and forces driving transformational change across economies, industries, and global issues, among them, forests. The WEF hosts platforms supporting reforestation.
- 1t.org | 1t.org is a World Economic Forum initiative, designed to support the trillion tree community. 1t.org is a platform for leading governments, businesses, civil society and ecopreneurs committed to restoring and reforesting the planet.
- Tropical Forest Alliance | The Tropical Forest Alliance is a multistakeholder partnership platform initiated to support the implementation of private-sector commitments to remove deforestation from palm oil, beef, soy and pulp/paper supply chains. Hosted by the World Economic Forum, the 170+ alliance partners include companies, government entities, civil society, indigenous peoples, local communities and international organizations, working together through Forest-Positive Collective Action to advance the world’s transition to deforestation-free commodity supply chains.
WWF has been working on forest issues for 50 years. It has supported the creation of protected areas, helped move the forest sector towards sustainability and transparency, and working across the world to halt deforestation, help restore forests and put deforestation-free commitments into action.
Canton of Geneva
Geneva is active in protecting biodiversity and forests, especially due to their proximity to the urban areas. While the human population is close to nature, it also induces significant pressures on the environments. As proposed in Geneva’s Strategy Plan on Biodiversity, it is essential to promote biodiversity at every scale, from land use planning to concrete achievements in neighborhoods or gardens. In addition, te forest reserve of the Grand Bois de Satigny was established by Geneva’s Conseil d’Etat on 23 May 2018. With nearly 100 hectares, it is one of the largest integral forest reserves in the Swiss Plateau, thus meeting the recommendations and priorities of the Swiss Confederation. All logging and active management of natural environments is prohibited in this reserve. The reserve remains fully open to the public and will offer future generations the opportunity to discover a large space devoted entirely to nature and its natural evolution.
City of Geneva
Renowned for its parks, the City of Geneva has also approximately 70 hectares of forests, managed in an optimal and ecological way.
Faune Genève is a non-profit association aiming at protecting and raising awareness on the fauna of Geneva. Its website is an official platform for naturalists and wildlife observers in the region.
La Libellule is a non-profit association raising public environmental awareness through field activities, mainly in the Geneva region.
Pro Natura is the oldest nature preservation organization in Switzerland, with several protected sites with important wildlife such as the Centre Nature Vallon de l’Allondon and the Centre Nature de la Pointe à la Bise in Geneva.
- International Day of Forests | FAO
- International Day of Forests | United Nations
- Forests in a nutshell: discover the lesser-known story behind some of your favourite dishes on International Day of Forests! | UNECE
- Guidelines on the Promotion of Green Jobs in Forestry | UNECE | February 2021
- Wednesdays for the Planet: Forests | Geneva Environment Network | 4 November 2020
- Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 | FAO