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GEF Guardians of the Forests

May 19, 2015

The 11th Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) wrapped up Friday at the UN headquarters in New York City after two weeks of heavy negotiations. While discussing the future of the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF), the Forum positively recognized the importance of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as funder of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) and welcomed its continued support.

The GEF presented its report to the UNFF, highlighting GEF support for SFM through GEF-5 SFM/REDD+ Incentive Mechanism. The UNFF recognized the breadth and depth of this support, which provided over $700 million grant support in 80 countries for a wide range of SFM related projects. The Forum also welcomed the GEF 6 SFM strategy which offers strengthened support for countries seeking to maintain and enhance the broad range of ecosystem services and benefits that well and sustainably managed forests can provide. 

“We look forward to implementing our strengthened SFM strategy to champion the maintenance of the multiple benefits and services forests provide,” said GEF CEO Naoko Ishii. “We have been a key supporter of countries’ efforts since 1992, supporting over 380 forest-related projects, and investing over $2.1 billion in GEF funds that leveraged $9.5 billion in co-financing from a range of partners including the private sector, local communities and indigenous groups.”

As a financial mechanism for the three Rio Conventions (UN Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and UN Convention to Combat Desertification), the GEF’s unique mandate allows it to support and strengthen the links between forests, biodiversity, climate change, local livelihoods and countries’ plans for incorporating forests in sustainable development plans. 

Over the course of the Forum, the GEF together with its partner agencies highlighted some of the successes of its synergistic approach on forests, including benefits for land degradation, climate change and biodiversity. For example, 31.6 million hectares of forests are benefitting from GEF SFM projects and activities since 2010, and over 424,000 hectares of degraded forest land are under restoration, providing a range of ecosystem services.

The Ministerial Declaration underscored the importance of forests and sustainable forest management for the lives and wellbeing of people across the world and stressed concern over continued deforestation ad forest degradation. Looking forward, a strengthened UNFF is seen as an important policy forum for the promotion of sustainable forest management and the work of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), of which the GEF is a member, is seen as vital to support the implementation of sustainable forest management and to integrate forests into the post-2015 development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

GEF Director of Programs Gustavo Fonseca speaks at UNFF11 high-level segment

At the high level segment of the Forum, the GEF stressed that although deforestation may be declining in several place, at the global level it remains unacceptably high, with alarming recent reports on the extent of forest degradation, and noted that there is much work yet to be done to implement the pledges made on forest landscape restoration. The GEF also stressed the importance of addressing forest issues in a holistic and integrated manner.

The GEF reaffirmed its commitment to continue both individually and with other members of the CPF to support the International Arrangement on Forests, providing a multi-disciplinary approach to sustainable forest management and making forests an essential part of sustainable development.

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