Nairobi — Five-year deforestation programme launched to protect forests worldwide
The World Bank has launched a joint venture with the World Wildlife Fund to reduce global deforestation by 10 per cent in the next five years.
The announcement was made at the fifth meeting of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) as a call to action for the international community and to mark the renewal of the cooperation for another five years.
The current rate of global deforestation is more than 14 million hectares (about 54,000 square miles) per year, roughly equal to the size of Greece. Most of the losses occur in the tropics.
Known as the World Bank/WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use (Forest Alliance), the programme will support the establishment of new forest protected areas such as national parks, promote effective management of forest protected areas, and improve management of forests outside of protected areas.
The alliance also will help to facilitate regional cooperation and the adoption of policies in support of more effective forest management.
"Ecologically and economically valuable forests in places like the boreal forests of Russia's Far East, the lowland forests of Sumatra as well as the rainforests of the Amazon and the Congo are disappearing quickly to forces such as illegal or poorly regulated logging and agricultural clearing," said Claude Martin, WWF's Director General.
By renewing the Forest Alliance, the World Bank and WWF are being committed to work with governments and a wide range of forest stakeholders to develop effective solutions to these forest threats.
World Bank studies estimate that $15 billion in tax revenues is lost annually in developing countries due to illegal logging. "This is money that governments in poor countries could use for social services and health," said Ian Johnson, vice-president for Sustainable Development at the World Bank, adding that these practices need to be stopped.
Johnson said the World Bank and WWF will work with all parties involved to establish effective and equitable regulation of forest practices. Since the Forest Alliance was first created in 1998, it has contributed to the establishment of 50 million hectares (193,000 square miles) of new protected areas. It has also improved management of 70 million hectares (270,000 square miles) of protected areas and responsible management of some 22 million hectares (85,000 square miles) of commercially harvested forests.
These accomplishments have been achieved in pursuit of measurable targets, which the Forest Alliance has updated and expanded to drive further achievements by 2010.
The Forest Alliance has played a pivotal role in facilitating regional initiatives in the developing world and has been actively working with the private sector to promote responsible forest practices through various programmes.
A US State Department initiative of $53 million to promote forest conservation and 3.5 million hectares (13,000 square miles) of new protected areas have been established in the Congo Basin since the first summit in 1999 was convened with support from the Forest Alliance.
Groundbreaking analytical work has led to the development of a systematic approach for detection, prevention, and suppression of illegal logging in Indonesia.
WWF's Global Forest and Trade Network, with support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, is providing technical assistance and support to the business community to improve forest management practices.
The Forest Alliance will continue to work closely with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to put in place innovative financial mechanisms to fund initiatives and field projects that help to protect the global environment, the officials said.