United Nations Forum on Forests

United Nations Forum on Forests


Why in the News? 

At the 19th United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF 19) held in New York, India showcased its remarkable progress in conservation and the sustainable management of forests, highlighting a steady growth in its forest cover for the last 15 years. 

During the session, India emphasised its commitment to biodiversity and wildlife preservation, noting the significant expansion of its conservation areas. This includes an extensive network comprising over a thousand national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves, biosphere reserves, and various wildlife habitats. Moreover, India spotlighted its role in establishing the International Big Cat Alliance, a crucial initiative for the global protection and conservation of the seven major big cat species, leveraging international collaboration. The ‘Green Credit Programme’ launch was also shared, a strategic move to encourage organisations to plant trees and rehabilitate deteriorated forest areas, thereby contributing to enhanced climate action efforts. 

About the United Nations Forum on Forest: 

The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) is a global platform inaugurated in 2000 by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It advocates for responsible management, preservation, and sustainable growth of all forest types. This initiative acknowledges forests’ vital importance for ecological stability, economic advancement, and societal health, marking a significant step towards addressing these global concerns. 

India is a founding member of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF). It focuses on implementing promises made at global gatherings like the Earth Summit 1992 and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Its objective is to foster the management, conservation, and sustainable growth of forests of all varieties. 

The forum facilitates dialogue among various stakeholders for sustainable forest management, mobilises financial resources, especially for developing countries, and aims to boost political commitment towards prioritising forest issues globally. 

Some key initiatives under the UNFF: 

  • United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030 (UNSPF): This strategic plan outlines a comprehensive approach to the sustainable management of all forest types and trees in non-forest areas, aiming to stop deforestation and forest degradation. It is aligned with major global agendas, endorsing the execution of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement within the framework of the UN Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. 
  • Global Forest Goals: The UNSPF outlines six Global Forest Goals and 26 associated targets aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals address issues such as increasing forest area, enhancing forest-based economic, social, and environmental benefits, and mobilizing financing for sustainable forest management. These 6 goals are:
    1. Enhance initiatives to combat forest degradation by adopting sustainable forest management practices, encompassing protection, restoration, afforestation, and reforestation. 
    2. Enhance forest-based economic, social, and environmental benefits. This includes improving the livelihoods of forest-dependent people and contributing to eradicating poverty. 
    3. Increase the area of protected forests worldwide and ensure forest biodiversity conservation. This effort aims to safeguard the variety of life that forestsharbourr, recognising their inherent worth and the advantages they offer to human well-being. 
    4. To effectively implement sustainable forest management, it’s essential to gather considerably more financial resources, including new and additional funds, from various sources. This approach will guarantee that sufficient financing is available to achieve the other objectives. 
    5. Promote governance frameworks to implement sustainable forest management, including through the United Nations Forest Instrument. This involves creating and enforcing policies that support the sustainable management and conservation of forests. 
    6. Enhance cooperation, coordination, and coherence among all forest-related processes and initiatives. This goal aims to ensure that efforts to achieve the Global Forest Goals are unified and that there is synergy between different initiatives and stakeholders. 
  • Forest Instrument: Officially known as the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests, this instrument outlines the policies and measures countries have committed to implementing to achieve sustainable forest management. 

About the International Big Cat Alliance (IBCA):  

The International Big Cat Alliance (IBCA), launched in April 2023 and led by India, is dedicated to conserving the seven primary big cat species globally. The alliance has 97 members and is committed to enhancing cooperation, exchanging successful strategies, and crafting policies to tackle the illicit trade and hunting of wildlife. India has committed $100 million to support the alliance over its initial five-year period, and the IBCA plans to become financially independent through diverse funding mechanisms. 

The primary objective is to protect and conserve populations of big cats, including tigers, lions, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, and snow leopards, in their natural habitats. They ensure the preservation and restoration of habitats critical for big cats’ survival, thereby maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem health. 

Way Forward:

  • Implement and enforce strict laws against illegal logging, land conversion, and other activities that lead to deforestation and forest degradation, and adopt best practices in forest management that balance ecological, economic, and social objectives. 
  • Involve local communities in forest management and decision-making processes to ensure that conservation efforts are socially inclusive and sustainable. Develop mechanisms that allow local communities to benefit economically from forest conservation through eco-tourism, sustainable harvesting, and other income-generating activities. 
  • Implement REDD+ initiatives that provide financial incentives for developing countries to reduce deforestation and forest degradation emissions. 
  • Advanced technologies, such as remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and drones, are used to monitor forest cover and illegal activities. 
  • Gather financial support from global donors, public agencies, and private industry to back projects and initiatives to preserve forests. 


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Prelims Practice Question:

Q. How can reforestation and afforestation contribute to forest conservation? How does the UNFF promote the management, conservation, and sustainable development of all types of forests?

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