Sydney, 12 November - “Forests mean the world -- we must do everything we can to protect them,” Director-General Irina Bokova told delegates today at the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit in Sydney, Australia. The Summit was organized by the Australian Government and brought together ministers from across the Asia Pacific region as well as representatives from the corporate sector and civil society groups.
In a keynote address to the participants and a panel discussion on the international perspective on rainforest conservation, the Director-General insisted on the need for better management of forests, to help humanity cope with challenges such as climate change and diminishing biodiversity. She stressed that indigenous peoples could greatly contribute to this.
“We must draw on all sources of knowledge, including local and indigenous knowledge -- I know this is especially true across this region, and in Australia,” said Irina Bokova, highlighting the example of Australia’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Rainforest, which is managed by Aboriginals. Their involvement she said has “had a tremendous, positive impact on the protection of the Wet Tropics – especially compared to other tropical rainforests, facing environmental threats, the resettlement of large numbers of people, and habitat degradation for key species.”
These perspectives were further highlighted in a panel discussion with Zhang Xinsheng, President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Peter Seligmann, President of Conservation International, Peter Holmgren of the Centre for International Forestry Research and Emmanuel Ze Meka, Executive Director of the International Tropical Timber Organization. The Director-General underscored the need to build national capacity to help identify the right priorities and manage sites in a sustainable manner, together with education from the early age to understand the stakes of sustainable development.
About 500 million people in the Asia-Pacific depend on rainforests for their day-to-day life and income. The region accounts for 6.2 percent of the world’s forested area, amounting to nearly 250 million hectares. They represent almost ten percent of the global carbon sink.