Sustainable Development Goal 15 aims to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.

Forests have a significant role in reducing the risk of natural disasters, including floods, droughts, landslides and other extreme events. At global level, forests mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, contribute to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the air and protect watersheds, which supply 75% of freshwater worldwide.

Investing in forests and forestry represent an investment in people and their livelihoods, especially the rural poor, youth and women. Around 1.6 billion people - including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures - depend on forests for their livelihood.

Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. They also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent communities.

Therefore, the future of forests and forestry in sustainable development at all levels was at the core of the XIV World Forestry, hosted in Durban from 7 to 11 September 2015. The Durban Declaration called for new partnerships among forest, agriculture, finance, energy, water and other sectors, as well the engagement with indigenous people and local community.

The importance of investing in world’s forests and of taking “political commitment at the highest levels, smart policies, effective law enforcement, innovative partnerships and funding” was also recalled by the UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon in his Message on the occasion of the 2015 International Day of Forests.

Both the International Day of Forests, launched in 2013 and the International Year of Forest proclaimed for 2011 aimed at raising awareness on the importance of all types of forests and of trees outside forests.

Prior to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference, the Future We Want, in its paragraphs 193- 196 stress the importance of improving the livelihoods of people and communities by creating the conditions required to sustainably manage forests. It also recognizes the role of the UN Forum on Forests in addressing forest-related issues in a holistic and integrated manner, and in promoting international policy coordination and cooperation in order to achieve forest management. Paragraph 196 calls for the mainstreaming of sustainable forest management and practises into economic policy and decision-making.

Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 is entitled ‘Combating Deforestation’ and is devoted to sustain the multiple roles and functions of all types of forests, forest lands and woodlands.

On one side, the Agenda highlights the major weaknesses in the policies, methods and mechanisms adopted to support trees, forests and forest lands and the multiple ecological, economic, social and cultural roles.

Therefore, on the other side, it identifies, among its objectives, the strengthening of forest-related national institutions, the enhancement of the scope and effectiveness of activities related to the management, conservation and sustainable development of forests, and the sustainable utilization and production of forests' goods and services in both the developed and the developing countries.

The Agenda also mentions the importance to improve human, technical and professional skills, as well as expertise and capabilities to effectively formulate and implement policies, plans, programmes, research and projects on management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and forest-based resources, and forest lands inclusive, as well as other areas from which forest benefits can be derived.

Copyright United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs