Daunting challenges, clear goals: forests and the SDGs

April 06, 2017

Daunting challenges, clear goals: forests and the SDGs


This article has been shared by the R & B Timbers group from FAO Forestry.

FAO/R. Grisolia 5 April, 2017, Rome - Forests contribute to achieving most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and must be given higher priority in development agendas, Eva Müller, Director of FAO's Forestry Policy and Resources Division, told the 19th Commonwealth Forestry Conference (CFC) today.

Speaking at a plenary session of the conference in Dehradun, India, Müller set out concrete evidence of the importance of forests for achieving the different SDGs - and not only Goals 6 and 15, which include specific reference to forest management. For example, forests can help to achieve SDG 5 on gender equality, with more than one billion women depending on forests for their livelihoods; SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation, as forested watersheds supply 75 percent of the world's accessible fresh water; and SDG 14 on life below water through the many benefits provided by mangrove forests.

"We have daunting challenges ahead of us, but clear goals. To achieve our vision of a sustainable and resilient future an integrated approach to SDG implementation is essential." Müller said. "Sectorial thinking and behaviors currently hold us back, we need to look at challenges from a cross-sectoral perspective. It is imperative we stimulate action in all areas of critical importance to the development agenda, forestry being one of them." 

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and their 169 targets balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental. Forests contribute to all three aspects, and to almost all of the Goals. Müller highlighted the importance of the landscape approach, integrated land use planning and stronger collaboration across sectors as solutions to forestry challenges. Underlining that solutions must also incorporate raising the awareness of the role of forests in sustainable development, the Director stressed the necessity of improving data availability, and of identifying indicators.

Commonwealth forestry conferences have been held regularly since 1920 to discuss the management of forests and the changing priorities of the forestry sector. The theme for this year's conference is 'Forests for Prosperity and Posterity'. Müller will also speak at an FAO side event, "Making policy work: Enhancing impacts on the ground for sustainability and prosperity", on 5 April.