11 May 2022, Seoul: The world’s largest ever gathering on forests has adopted a declaration identifying priority areas with potential to lead to a green, healthy and resilient future.
The Seoul Forest Declaration concluded five days of discussions at the XV World Forestry Congress, with a key focus on how forests can help combat the multiple crises humanity faces, including climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation, hunger and poverty.
The gathering, co-organized by the Republic of Korea and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) drew more than 15 000 participants from over 140 countries either in person or online, in the first event of its kind since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Seoul Forest Declaration sends a powerful message that forests, forestry and forest stakeholders offer major solutions to the challenges the world currently faces, but action is needed now,” said FAO Deputy Director-General, Maria Helena Semedo.
“We must now scale up political will and increase financial and technical investments. The Declaration will add to the sense of urgency to accelerate action, strengthen partnerships and enhance cross-sectoral collaboration,” she said.
Priority areas for action
The Seoul Forest Declaration urges that responsibility for forests should be shared and integrated across institutions, sectors and stakeholders, underlining that forests transcend political, social and environmental boundaries and are vital for biodiversity and the carbon, water and energy cycles at a planetary scale.
Investment in forest and landscape restoration globally needs to triple by 2030 to meet internationally agreed commitments and targets on restoring degraded land, according to the Declaration.
One of the key takeaways from the Congress was the importance of moving towards a circular bioeconomy and climate neutrality. The Declaration called for innovative green financing mechanisms to upscale investment in forest conservation, restoration and sustainable use, and highlighted the potential of sustainably produced wood as a renewable, recyclable and versatile material.
Healthy, productive forests must also be maintained to reduce the risk of future pandemics and to provide other essential benefits for human physical and mental health, the Declaration stressed.
Lastly, the Declaration urged the continued development and use of emerging innovative technologies and mechanisms to enable evidence-based forest and landscape decision-making.
Inclusivity and cooperation
Close cooperation among nations is needed to address challenges that transcend political boundaries. This was strengthened at the Congress by the launch of new partnerships such as the Assuring the Future of Forests with Integrated Risk Management (AFFIRM) Mechanism, and the Sustaining an Abundance of Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) initiative.
Participants also agreed that forest-based solutions must be inclusive of the perspectives of family farmers, smallholders, forest communities, Indigenous Peoples, women and youth. The outcomes of the Congress, which also included the Youth Statement on Forests and the Ministerial Call on Sustainable Wood, will be transmitted to the next Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP15), taking place this week, as well as the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Conventions on Biodiversity (CBD) and Climate Change (UNFCCC), and other important fora.
The World Forestry Congress is held every six years. Under the theme Building a Green, Healthy and Resilient Future, this year’s event, hosted by the Republic of Korea and co-organized with FAO, was the second congress held in Asia, with Indonesia hosting the first Congress in Asia in 1978.