FAO Director-General calls for transformational change in the way we manage our forests and food systems that depend on them – FAO

5 October 2020, Rome - Transformational change is needed in the way we manage our forests and their biodiversity, produce and consume our foods and interact with nature, if we want to build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This was the key message of a speech delivered today by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu at the 25th session of the Committee on Forestry (COFO).

 

This year's session of COFO is being convened virtually from 5 to 9 October 2020 under the theme "Forests and the SDG Decade of Action: solutions for climate change, biodiversity and people".

 

In his opening remarks, the Director-General noted that the pandemic has shown that forests can serve as a safety net for human beings - particularly the poor and vulnerable - in times of crisis, offering a huge potential in "building back better".

 

Given that deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates largely due to agricultural expansion, we need to find ways to increase agricultural production and improve food security without reducing forest areas, Qu said calling for a fundamental change of mindset and remodeling our business approaches.

 

"Halting deforestation and scaling up reforestation, must be a central building block to the sustainable transformation of food systems", the FAO chief stressed.

 

In his remarks, Qu urged to scale-up action to unlock the full potential of forests and food diversity and increase investment in sustainable forest sector as these actions are critical to achieving such global goals as eradication of hunger and poverty, climate change adaptation and mitigation as well as biodiversity conservation.

 

He also made the link to the Green Cities Initiative that FAO launched last month, which aims to transform agri-food systems, end hunger and improve nutrition in cities. He noted that cities are very essential in building back better, as "cities have the capacity, technologies, investment, information and purchasing power", adding that they can be the "promoter and engine of transformation".

 

This year's session of COFO is chaired by Shin Wonsup, Professor from Chungbuk National University, Cheongiu, Republic of Korea, and former Minister of Korea Forest Service. The opening session saw the participation of Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, and Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU Commissioner for Environment Oceans and Fisheries, among others.

 

"COVID-19 has taught us that we need to reinforce for urgent action," Inger Andersen said, noting that a green recovery from the pandemic must promote healthy and restored forests following the transitions laid out in the Convention for Biological Diversity with conserving intact ecosystems, restoring ecosystems and reversing degradation being the priorities. "But to make these transitions happen we need to transform our food systems, which is the largest deforestation cause and which is the largest biodiversity loss cause," she added.

 

For his part, the EU Commissioner said: "Forests and trees contribute to all four pillars of food security: availability, access, utilisation and stability. If we fail to achieve the SDG 15, in particular managing forests sustainably, and halting and reversing biodiversity loss, we will also fail to deliver on achieving a world free from hunger and more generally on the 2030 Agenda".

 

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