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Thais Juvenal-Linhares, UN-REDD Programme Secretariat Senior Programme Office highlights the value of forests in celebration of International Day of Forests, 21 March 2015.

(This speech was delivered on 20 March 2015 at the Forests for Food / Food for Forests Conference in Geneva)

“Thank you very much for the invitation  to participate at such important celebration for all of us working on the forests and sustainability agenda.

The UN-REDD Progamme is the United Nations Collaborative Programme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries, jointly delivered by FAO, UNDP and UNEP. The Programme launched in 2008, and has grown from an initial nine pilot countries to 58 partner countries as of today. It counts on contributions from six donors: Norway, European Union, Denmark, Spain, Japan and Luxembourg, and has mobilized US$ 245 million. By working through development of normative work and direct technical support to countries, the UN-REDD Programme has been able to contribute to raising awareness of the multiple benefits that can be derived from forest protection — beyond climate change mitigation, and its importance for sustainable livelihoods and development.

The Programme works with countries around six work areas focused on protecting and valuing standing forests and addressing all dimensions of sustainable forest management, from monitoring and measurement to governance and green economy. REDD+ has been  instrumental in  galvanizing interest and support to tropical forests and mobilize technical and financial resources.

Work on drivers of deforestation is one of the most challenging  within REDD+. It demands a a good understanding of the social and economic forces that lead to deforestation, which are often outside the forest sector and the particular tropical country where deforestation takes place. So what can be done?

First, we need to better understand what are the drivers of deforestation. These are different from country to country and manifest with varied power intensities. It is clear that agriculture is a very important one as it is estimated that 80 per cent of deforestation is driven by agriculture.

Second, we need to work at the country level to strengthen forest laws; enhance forest governance in  transparent and inclusive ways to reconcile social, environmental and economic needs; and build capacity in sustainable forest management, landscape management and agroforestry. Addressing  the supply side drivers is fundamental but not sufficient to curb deforestation at the needed pace.

Third, we need to address the demand side. By strengthening global governance through certification and organized consumer actions, as well as adopting legislation enforcing supply from sustainable sources, the main consumer countries and the large commodity-based businesses can accelerate deforestation reduction.

It is not easy however to progress towards such strengthened global forest governance. Among the main challenges is the risk of condemning developing countries to a development model that does not meet their needs. Striking the right balance between growth and commodity production, with adequate transfer of technology and knowledge for increased productivity and sustainability needs to be concomitant to actions on the demand side. Minimizing transaction costs and affording the cost of premiums for streamlining best practices is fundamental. Fully sustainable supply chains will have a cost and market impacts should be neutralized by gains in other parts or production and commercialization process. Finally global goals should be defined by consensus among producers and consumers, avoiding any perception of trade barriers or dumping.

There are many initiatives on the demand side that have already demonstrated some visible effects on reducing deforestation. The UN-REDD Programme is working with developing countries and the private sector  to facilitate the adoption of supply side measures that can make supply chains greener while delivering benefits for local communities and indigenous peoples, reconciling the needs of food security and forest conservation.