FAO – Speeches detail: COP25 Side Event: Leadership dialogue on turning the tide on deforestation

Madrid, Spain

12 December 2019

Distinguishes guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We are all here sitting together. This is a good signal. We will work together, and more than that: contribute together, that’s very important.

As the new DG of FAO, I have established a more open, inclusive, and cooperative approach. I am working with my sister UN agencies here, especially UNDP, UNEP and others, under the leadership of the Secretary General.

Due to the population growth, food and forestry are increasingly under pressure. We need to promote a transformation change and to address food security, agriculture, and forestry together through a holistic approach. We need a ‘roof design.’ This is my key message today.

It is possible to reconcile food security, agriculture production and forest conservation. That’s the way we have to.
For that, FAO is working with countries first to coordinate land use approaches across sectors. Regarding land use, for example, the key indicator is to increase the biomass production, not matter if it is grass, bush or trees.

WE need to ensure integrated management of forests and agriculture. A recent FAO study shows that over 20 developing countries have managed to reduce the number of undernourished people and to improve agricultural productivity, while maintaining or increasing their forest area. So it is possible. It is a contradiction that deforestation improves the productivity of food production.

Scaling-up solutions is key. FAO has several examples to share with you today. The UN-REDD Programme is a very good example. FAO works together with UNDP and UNEP on 65 partner countries to support actions to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. We are very pleased to have Chile with us today as one of the countries that has recently received results-based payments for its achievements.

FAO is also developing programmes with public and private partners for sustainable forest value chains to increase the value of forests through our Sustainable Wood for a Sustainable World initiative.

Furthermore, FAO’s provides support to help build resilient livelihoods for women and youth, while restoring forests and landscapes – for example, as part of the Great Green Wall. That was initiated by FAO many years ago and now, together with UNEP, we are designing a big wall together with the private sector. We want to build this Great Green Wall in Africa first. When I was a vice governor in China, there was less than 200 mm rainfall in a year and it is was semi-desert area. To face this, you can either build a kind of Great Green Wall or a public park around the township to let people benefit from it. Next time, I hope I can bring some big masterpiece project concept and also get support from my UNDP friends and UNEP together.

Finally, FAO and UNEP are leading the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which aims to prevent, halt and reverse ecosystem degradation and to massively scale up the restoration of degraded ecosystems, including forests.

To act, we need decisions based on evidence. And also to turn the tide. We call it ‘turning the tide’, so what tide is it? We have to use our collective forces. We need to look beyond forest. We have a department of forestry at the FAO, but we have to build up the collective synergy to step up our action against deforestation and forest degradation. We need to find a consensus to agree on, reduce the footprints of agriculture commodities. That is essential. Before, traditional agriculture only talked about productivity and efficiency but now we have to look at the environmentally friendly approach, especially in relation to animal husbandry and cash-crops, which also fully depend on the input of agricultural inputs.

We have to work with governments to make sure that fiscal policies are not subsidizing actions that cause deforestation. Some countries are under pressure from the population explosion, so they have to finish the hunger first. Now it is time for us to work together to help them to establish more sustainable policy to look long term at sustainability of food security.

Technology and innovation are also key. That’s something that’s not as usual as before. Now that technology and innovation are around, the agro-environment is new. For a lot of scientists it is also new. We have developed an innovative set of forest monitoring tools allowing users to access and process large amounts of data and satellite images directly on their mobile phones.

Partnerships are essential. That’s not only partnership among the UN agencies, but also partnership among the private sector and civil societies, academic, and especially investors also.

FAO stands ready to strengthen collaboration with UN partners. That’s why I initiated the “Hand-in-Hand Initiative” to focus on vulnerable people in vulnerable regions through the UN system and also the private sector and civil society and academic. Working together we will scale-up, speed up the help of those people who need it urgently, to support global efforts to turn the tide on deforestation. Because all those small island, land locked, least developed countries, they have the least capacity to do so related to deforestation, and other biodiversity degradation.

Ending poverty and hunger are our utmost goals, but we need to do that in a sustainable way. So let’s design bigger, holistically and do concrete and aim good. So I wish all my sister agencies and leaders support the FAO initiative, let’s help the people in the poor regions and speed up the SDGs as soon as possible, as better as possible.

Thank you.


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