Official closing ceremony of International Year of Forests

Stalni predstavnik Republike Hrvatske pri Ujedinjenim narodima veleposlanik Ranko Vilovic održao je govor na službenom zatvaranju Medunarodne godine šuma.

Under-Secretary-General Sha, Madame McAlpine, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is a special honour for Croatia to participate in today's ceremony marking the official closing of the International Year of Forests. I would especially like to thank UNDESA and the UNFF secretariat as the focal point for the IYF, as well other relevant UN organizations and the Collaborative Partnership for Forests, for all their support towards raising the visibility of forests in global policy discussions, in the lead up and during the International Year. A year ago Croatia joined a broad array of actors at the official launch the International Year. This represented a particularly gratifying moment for Croatia, who as the original promulgator behind the IYF, saw its efforts to galvanize international support for this worthy cause come into being. Croatia would like to take this opportunity to thank the other core sponsor countries, as well as the wider membership, for sharing our country's vision of a UN International Year dedicated to all the world's forests. It should be recalled that former Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development, Forestry and Water Management Božidar Pankretic personally participated in last year's launch. Speaking to the main them of the International Year - "Forests for People", he highlighted Croatia's longstanding recognition of the dynamic relationship between forests and their dependent communities. The benefits derived from a 250 year old tradition of sustainable forestry management, was a key driver to Croatia's to initiate the IYF process at the 5th Session of the UN Forum of Forests in May 2005. Culminating with the adoption of General Assembly resolution 61/193, our objective as the IYF's main creator, was to create a global dialogue by which to bring together the voices of various actors and build a momentum towards greater public engagement in forest activities worldwide. As we have witnessed, the International Year has provided a unique opportunity for various actors to raise awareness as to the inter-dependent nexus between forests and people, as well as galvanize bottom-up efforts to strengthen sustainable forest management and development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations. The timeliness of its commemoration has further helped to raise awareness of other interlinked challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change and desertification, as well as the importance of important inter-governmental processes tackling them. The Year's success has been marked by a plethora of practical actions undertaken worldwide, by young and old, to promote the IYF and for what it ultimately stands for. Croatia has also played its part in this endeavor. During the launch event, a digital photographic exhibition of Croatian forests was officially displayed at the UN Headquarters. Entitled "Forests through the Eye of a Forester", amateur foresters and nature enthusiasts photographed a rich array of sustainable forest scenes from their own personal perspectives. Devised as a visual learning tool for a wider audience, the aim of this exhibition was to present unique, multi-dimensional, and often unseen aspects of forest life, as well as to demonstrate the wealth of forests their side benefits as a living environment for ecosystems living within them. Beyond U.N. headquarters, the exhibition was showcased in various configurations throughout Croatia and in the U.S. during the Year. Other efforts have included joining efforts by the secretariat to publish an illustrated book “Forests for People”. Croatia as a program partner, contributed substantively and financially to this important publication, which showcases 75 authors describing activities in their respective countries towards tackling fundamental forestry issues and promoting the benefits of sustainable forest management worldwide. Today's event would not be complete without remembering the legacy of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangaari Maathai. Sadly, she is not with us to see the IYF through to its full fruition. Nevertheless, her personal activism and the work of her Green Belt Movement should be a continual reminder of often forgotten fundamental values necessary for a holistic approach to sustainable development, especially those embracing democracy, human and women's rights. Through increasing global awareness of our intrinsic relationship to trees, the IYF has issued a clarion call to us to turn our interest for forests into action. This is of an increasingly urgent nature, if we are to be able to respond to the demands of the 21st century. Our starting point must be the recognition that all aspects of our well-being, all 7 billion of us, are contingent to the well-being of forests. Looking forward, Croatia is of the view that if used correctly, the IYF can continue to bring added value. Devising a compendium of people's actions during the IYF could serve as an important evolving tool kit for policy makers and others. It could give us a bigger picture as to the economic, social and environmental value of forests, especially if they are managed in sustainable and innovative ways. Towards this endeavour, Croatia has heeded the call to post submissions of activities undertaken pursuant to the IYF on a special dedicated website and urges others to do the same. It is also incumbent on us all that our coordinated efforts continue well beyond the year itself towards catalyzing further collective policies and actions. The achievement of the four Goal Objectives on Forests, namely stopping and reversing deforestation, strengthening forest-based economies, increasing protected and sustainably managed forest areas, as well as increasing requisite funding for these efforts, should remain an urgent priority for all. Continuing this exercise beyond the IYF, is particularly important as we approach the poverty eradication 2015 deadline under the MDGs, as well as in our preparations in the lead up to the UN Rio+20 sustainable development conference in Brazil later this year. It is essential to build on the benefits reaped from the International Year, towards further enhancing cross-sectoral and cross-institutional forest strategies that contribute to development, poverty eradication, food and water security, environmental and biodiversity protection. On its part, Croatia as a country with forest covering almost half of its land surface, views forests as an integral part of the blueprint we need to come up with at Rio for a sustainable future, not only for our generation, but for generations to come. Finally, I would like to congratulate todays' Forest Heroes Award recipients and other contest winners. Together, they all serve as important ambassadors in our collective efforts towards achieving even greater things, both for our world's forests and for us all. Thank you.