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2011: UN International Year of Forests

The International Year of Forests aimed to conserve and sustain the development of all types of forests for current and future generations.

Small tree cupped in adult hands
2011, the International Year of Forests.
©iStockphoto.com/hidesy

The United Nations (UN) declared 2011 to be the International Year of Forests, along with the International Year of Chemistry and the International Year for People of African Descent.

Promoting the importance of forests

The International Year of Forests focused on increasing public awareness of forests’ important ecological, economical and social functions. Organized activities were held throughout the year to celebrate the Year and provide educational information on how people can promote sustainable forest management.

Many international, regional, and civil society organizations had national committees to coordinate various events in countries such as (but not exclusive to) the United Kingdom, Norway, Italy, Indonesia, Kenya, and the United States. These events included conferences, workshops, expositions, as well as educational activities.

The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) handled the implementation of the International Year of Forests. UNFF planned to strengthen their working relationships with different organizations working towards sustainable forest management, as well as on forest-related issues within the United Nations system, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Global sustainable development

Forests play an important role in the ongoing global sustainable development. The World Bank estimates that forests provide habitats to about two-thirds of all species on earth, and that more than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods. The forest product industry is a source of economic growth and employment, with global forest products traded internationally in the order of $270 billion.

Every year about 130,000km² of the world's forests are lost due to deforestation, according to the UN’s FAO. The most common reasons for the loss of forested areas is due to the conversion of forests to agricultural land, unsustainable harvesting of timber, unsound land management practices, and creation of human settlements.

Deforestation of closed tropical rainforests can account for the biodiversity loss of as many as 100 species a day. According to the World Bank, deforestation is responsible for up to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. FAO data estimates that the world's forests and soil store more than one trillion tons of carbon, which is twice the amount of carbon found in the atmosphere.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, “Across the globe lie more than a billion hectares of lost and degraded forest land that could be restored”.

Forests for people

The International Year of Forests’ logo was designed to convey the theme of the Year - “Forests for People.” The iconographic elements in the design show the multiple values of forests and the central role of people in the sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of our world’s forest. Together, the elements are shown in different shades of green as the leaves of one tree to reinforce the message that forests are vital to the survival and well-being of people everywhere. The logo elements represent forests’ role as:

  • A shelter for people.
  • A habitat to biodiversity.
  • A source of food, medicine and clean water.
  • A vital role in maintaining a stable global climate and environment.

Topics: UN Year

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