XCMG’s Water Cellar Project in Ethiopia Improves Life and Brings Hope to Dry Land


DDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, May 5, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — XCMG’s Africa-Ethiopia Water Cellar Project has yield impressive results since the first water cellar was built in Oda Nebe primary school in the country’s capital, Addis Ababa, in August, 2016. In the past nine months, new water cellars constructed by XCMG have brought clean water for drinking […]

Lighter Turnout Seen for Algerian Parliamentary Election; Ruling Party Reigns


CAIRO, EGYPT � Voter turnout in parliamentary elections across Algeria appeared to be lighter than the government had hoped, although 38 percent of eligible voters reportedly cast their ballots, according to interior ministry figures. Participation was down from 43 percent in the previous parliamentary election in 2012, as some younger voters appeared to heed calls on social media to boycott the election.

Algerians in some parts of the country appeared to vote in larger numbers than in others. Despite the regional disparities, though, Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui proclaimed the election a success, emphasizing the governing Front de Liberation Nationale party won the largest number of seats.

The FLN party won 164 seats, while the runner-up Tagama Party � with which it is allied � won 97, according to Bedoui. The next two largest parties, he adds, won 33 and 28 seats, respectively. He also says a large number of female candidates won seats in this year’s election.

Ripples of discontent, however, were evident on social media.

A number of videos on social media urging voters to boycott the election appeared to resonate with some younger voters, amid anger over high youth unemployment rates and accusations of corruption against the FLN party.

Older voters appeared to be more enthusiastic about voting, amid concerns for stability. Algerians worry about civil war and chaos in neighboring countries, and hope to avoid a similar fate. The country suffered its own bloody civil war during the 1990s, in which thousands of people died. President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika is widely credited for having brought an end to that civil war, and many worry about the fate of the country when he dies.

Algerian TV showed the ailing president, who suffered a stroke several years ago and remains wheelchair-bound, casting his ballot Thursday. Lingering concerns over Bouteflika’s health prompted many voters to cast their ballots amid hopes of staving off potential instability.

Female supporters of the government ululated to express support during a final campaign rally, in which Prime Minister Abdel Malek Selal defended his government’s record and claimed that the country is “doing well.”

Louisa Hanoune, who heads the socialist Parti des Travailleurs, disagrees with the prime minister, however, and claims many people are not satisfied with the government’s performance.

She says it is a citizen’s right to abstain from voting, because their decision to do so reflects anger and a rejection of the ruling parties, including what she calls their policies of marginalizing various parts of society.

Low oil and gas prices have put pressure on the government to cut back on spending, which has negatively affected young people and the less privileged portions of society.

Former Commerce Minister Amara Benyounes, who now heads the Mouvement Populaire Algerienne party, told journalists he understands why some Algerians are angry with the government, but said they need to channel their anger in a constructive way.

He says Algerians have the right to express their opinion, either by voting or by boycotting the election, but he doesn’t see any solution to the country’s problems outside the electoral process.

Despite claims of electoral fraud on social media, one election observer from the Arab League told journalists that voting took place under optimal conditions.

Algerian TV showed government helicopters flying in the skies of the capital Algiers as part of security measures to prevent violence during the election. It also showed police stopping vehicles to check on their owners’ identities in areas around polling stations.

Source: Voice of America

Forum on Forests Poised to Guide Investments in Woodland Areas for Building Sustainable, Resilient Societies, Speakers Say as Session Continues


The United Nations Forum on Forests was in a position to lead high-level discussions on how smart investments in woodland areas could reduce the risks of natural disaster, mitigate climate change and more broadly foster implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, speakers said today as they continued the policy body’s twelfth session.

In particular, said Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Forum on Forests could provide guidance to the High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development when it convened in 2018 under the theme, transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.

While its inputs would be particularly important for the review of Sustainable Development Goal 15 on forests, they would also be useful for evaluating Goals 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 12 (responsible consumption and production) and 17 (partnership). You are the experts on forestry, he said, the curators of that pillar that is so essential.

Forum on Forests Chair Peter Besseau (Canada) encouraged delegates to think out loud about how to communicate the importance of forests to the 2030 Agenda and perhaps invite other sectors to work on forestry issues.

In turn, speakers representing Government, civil society, the United Nations and trade groups offered proposals for broadening the Forum on Forest’s outreach, with some welcoming the announcement of an international conference on Goal 15 and others suggesting that the Collaborative Partnership on Forests � an informal group of 14 agencies � enhance its cooperation with the Political Forum.

In that context, a speaker from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said a revised concept note for a proposed international conference to prepare for the 2018 Political Forum had been e-mailed to all participants of the twelfth session. A speaker from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations meanwhile drew attention to a new expert panel on forests and water.

Manoel Sobral Filho, Director of the Secretariat of the Forum on Forests, presented the Secretary-General’s report on enhanced cooperation, coordination and engagement on forest-related issues, stressing that communications and outreach were essential components of the Strategic Plan on Forests 2017-2030. The secretariat had identified key audiences, messages and activities, he said, highlighting efforts to enhance the roles of major groups, and regional and subregional bodies in international forest arrangements.

Switzerland’s delegate, however, objected to proposals for the creation of new bodies to foster cooperation with regional processes, or coordinate interregional work, questioning how they would be financed. Nor was a network needed on poverty reduction, the timber trade and illegal logging, which would supersede the Forum on Forest’s mandate. She, likewise, questioned what a multistakeholder advisory group would do.

In the afternoon, the Forum on Forests held a panel discussion on means of implementation for sustainable forest management. Panellist Penny Davies, Programme Officer for Equitable Development at the Ford Foundation, described two streams of investment financing � for sustainable agriculture that did not clear natural forests, and for both sustainable and community-based forest management.

However, we are finding it difficult to place [that financing], she said, due to a number of constraints that made those investments too difficult to justify.

Werner Kornexl, Manager of the Programme on Forests, said that, despite the consensus that environmental services from forests were vital for the world’s climate, livelihood, water regulation and biodiversity, a widening gap existed in investments in those areas. The World Bank’s current forest portfolio � about $500-$600 million per year � fell far short of what was needed. Flexible, cross-sectoral thinking was needed to overcome the notion that most financing instruments were too risky in the context of forests, he said, adding that green bonds and fiscal transfer mechanisms were complex, but doable.

Ivan Tomaselli, President of STCP Engenharia de Projectos Limitida, said the private sector spent an estimated $125-$170 billion to manage natural forests. Timber investment management organizations, which acted as brokers for institutional clients, managed more than $60 billion in forest assets and had replaced industry as the main forest managers in many countries. Such organizations were designed to maximize returns, he said, adding that investments in research and development had largely declined.

Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programmes of the Global Environment Facility secretariat, moderating the discussion, noted that the Facility had supported 411 forest-related projects amounting to $2.7 billion � and leveraging some $13.8 billion in co-financing � since 1991. Those programmes targeted biodiversity, climate change mitigation and the inefficient use of land, as well as improving local livelihoods.

The Forum on Forests will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 5 May, to conclude its twelfth session.

Implementation of United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030

THOMAS GASS, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, updated on the work of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which he said was not only about centralizing authority and data to New York. It was about subsidiarity and ensuring an intergovernmental space for engaged civil society, experts and Governments to discuss the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030 outlined that the Forum on Forests should contribute to the review of the 2030 Agenda and its related Sustainable Development Goals, notably through the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.

Pointing out that the 2018 High-level Political Forum would review Goals 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17 under the theme, transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies, he said its contribution would be of particular importance to Goal 15, on forests, and to Goals 6 and 7, which were linked to sustainable forest management.

The Forum’s input can give clear and concrete guidance on national actions towards achieving the forest-related Sustainable Development Goals, he said, stressing that it might consider holding intersessional activities ahead of the thirteenth session in 2018, during which States could be invited to submit their views on the contributions of forests to those Goals. The Forum on Forests’ understanding of forestry was already higher than that of the Political Forum. It could speak to the nexus between forestry and the other goals and he encouraged participants to review targets with a fine-toothed comb to help others understand where forestry was most important.

In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Iran said the Political Forum was a universal platform for presenting views and ideas. The feedback it received in the expression of views was important and he asked how those views helped States achieve goals and targets.

Mr. GASS replied that the Political Forum was a space where several information tracks came together. For example, quantitative information was collected from an aggregate of official global indicators. The Forum on Forests had more granularity and details about what was behind the data. About 80 of the Council’s functional commissions were invited each year to provide inputs to the Political Forum, which could be found on the sustainable development knowledge platform. As for feedback, States should not expect a detailed analysis of the Forum on Forest’s contribution to the Political Forum. There would be a summary of the proceedings. Also, it would be important that Political Forum members bring information back to the Forum on Forests.

The representative of the European Union welcomed announcement of an international conference on Goal 15. Any emerging issues or gaps should be identified and the Political Forum should provide guidance in that regard.

The representative of Bhutan said that, at the national level, forestry was a large part of sustainable development. Bhutan was up for voluntary national review in 2018. Given the importance of forestry in the national development framework, the issue would be strongly reflected in its review. He encouraged others to take a holistic approach to forestry and its role in development.

The representative of Switzerland said her country would engage with the Political Forum every year and would make forests a high priority in its voluntary review. She asked whether it would be necessary to wait until 2019 to hear about the results of the Political Forum and how those results would be carried to the General Assembly.

Mr. GASS replied that forests were always relevant to the Political Forum. It was difficult for 193 Member States to make conclusions on six Goals and an overarching theme, as well as provide feedback to contributors, be they countries or thematic fora, with the kind of expertise that was reflected in their initial contributions. There were other reporting mechanisms, which were more traditional relationships. Through your input and presence in the High-level Political Forum, you can make sure the discussions are pertinent to what you need to get in terms of feedback, he said.

The representative of Germany said the Strategic Plan should be used to signal that there were threats to forests, due to unsustainable practices in other sectors.

The representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, describing the Forum on Forest’s inputs on resilience of cities and communities, said it was time to more towards more action. If those contributions were to be transformative they should address mechanisms and processes for bringing change to those communities, notably institutional arrangements and policies for leveraging actions and resources for achieving actionable ends.

The representative of Malaysia said the forestry sector played an important role in Goals 6, 12 and 15. On Goal 6, the protection of inland waters was essential and underscored the importance of incentivizing development. On Goal 12, the promotion of forest certification must be intensified in order to reduce illegal logging. A green premium could be used by importing countries to promote sustainable forest management.

The representative of China called the Strategic Plan a milestone outcome. Establishing a connection between the Global Forest Goals and six targets highlighted the Plan’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Through monitoring, assessment and reporting of the Strategy, the Forum on Forests could report on progress towards achieving those Goals. The gaps in implementation should be identified in sustainable forest management. Members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests could also enhance cooperation with the Political Forum.

A speaker from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations outlined his views on the Strategic Plan and the Forum on Forest’s contribution to the 2018 Political Forum meeting, drawing attention to a new expert panel on forests and water, which would produce an assessment and launch a policy brief during the 2018 meeting. He suggested that space be allocated for scientific discussions.

A speaker from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), referring to the proposal to hold an international conference to prepare for the 2018 Political Forum, said a revised concept note had been e-mailed to all participants in the Forum’s twelfth session.

The representative of New Zealand said that, as the leading body on sustainable forest policy, the Forum on Forests must provide input to all aspects of Goal 15 and other Goals and targets under consideration at the 2018 Political Forum meeting.

Mr. GASS emphasized the complementary between the Political Forum and Forum on Forests, stressing: You are the experts on forestry, the curators of that pillar that is so essential. He cautioned against placing expectations on the centre which the periphery could do very well. The Forum on Forests could ensure that Governments included contributions to the Strategic Plan during their voluntary national reviews by the Political Forum.

Enhanced Cooperation, Coordination and Engagement on Forest-Related Issues

MANOEL SOBRAL FILHO, Director of the Secretariat of the Forum on Forests, presented the Secretary-General’s report on enhanced cooperation, coordination and engagement on forest-related issues (document E/CN.18/2017/5), which gave an overview of activities by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and contained proposals on revised guidelines for country-led initiatives related to the Forum on Forest’s work. He highlighted the expert meeting on developing global forest indicators, hosted by FAO, and the holding of expert panels.

He said the Secretariat had co-organized, with the Economic Cooperation Organization, an expert meeting in September 2016 to enhance the roles of regional and subregional entities in international forest arrangements. Proposals made during the meeting served as inputs to subsequent discussions in Bangkok and had proven instrumental in the Forum on Forest’s work. The eleventh session had reaffirmed the roles of major groups in international forest arrangements. As such, the Secretariat had worked with major groups to enhance their participation in intersessional work. In October 2016, it had organized an expert meeting to strengthen the engagement of stakeholders in international arrangements. It also worked with the focal points of major groups to prepare for the Forum on Forest’s twelfth session. On communications and outreach, an essential component of the Strategic Plan, the Secretariat had identified key audiences, key messages and activities.

The Forum on Forests then turned to a discussion on country-led initiative guidelines and activities to celebrate the International Day of Forests in 2016.

The representative of Colombia highlighted activities her country had carried out to mark the International Day, with a strategy based on civic duties.

The representative of Chile said her country had celebrated the International Day with broad participation by children, the level at which countries must start awareness-raising. That required a solid communications strategy.

The representative of Ecuador said there were more than 700 participants in his country’s celebration of the International Day.

The representative of Nigeria highlighted activities related to water, energy, climate change and financing. To commemorate the International Day in 2017, it had joined efforts with the Republic of Korea in a community-centred event focused on rural communities and the role of tree farmers in planting.

The representative of Ukraine said that, for 11 years, her country had carried out a forestry campaign, which featured seminars, trainings and school events.

The representative of Australia said that, with the Partnership’s recent Twitter communications, the Forum on Forests had a strong foundation to form its communications and outreach strategy. There was an opportunity to curate the content of the story of forests.

The representative of Mexico underscored the importance of aligning communications with progress on the Strategic Plan, pressing the Forum on Forests to work on such a communications strategy. He called on member organizations to work with Governments in disseminating all information about the International Day.

The representative of the Economic Cooperation Organization said forests were the most feasible mechanisms to combat climate change. His organization, which relied on support from the United Nations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, could be a regional platform for developing sustainable forest management programmes.

The representative of Sri Lanka said that, in 2016, his country had organized awareness programmes, with particular attention to water, as dry-zone rivers depended on wet-zone mountain areas.

The representative of Slovakia highlighted the leadership role her country had played since 2014 in Forests Europe, a high-level political forum. She supported its cooperation with the Forum on Forests in order to seek coherence on strategic issues.

The representative of the United States said her country presented stories on the Department of Agriculture’s website and through the Department of State’s social media in 2016.

The representative of Canada expressed support for sustained and diverse communications to audiences throughout the year, stressing that meetings were not the only approach to intersessional activities; online tools should be used.

The representative of Belarus said increasing awareness was an important part of his country’s plans around forest resources. Recalling that a hurricane last year had destroyed thousands of hectares of land, he said those areas had been replanted with trees, while voluntary participation in forest clean-up continued to grow each year.

A speaker from the children and youth major group described missed opportunities. While there was a declared theme of the International Day, discrepancies existed among the many related social media campaigns and she requested that children and youth participate early in preparations for such outreach.

The representative of Japan said the Forum on Forest’s website featured only three country reports and he encouraged States to better use the site to promote the International Day.

The representative of China said her country had celebrated the International Day in March, suggesting that the Strategic Plan be used to encourage States to launch nationwide communications and outreach.

The representative of Malaysia said his country had consistently celebrated the International Day, with last year’s programme focused on tree planting with the goal of greening the nation.

The representative of Papua New Guinea said that, since 2013, his country’s activities included awareness-raising in schools, suggesting that promotional material be provided by the Forum.

The representative of the European Union said increasing visibility and impact across regions and all levels required a communications and outreach strategy that operated in the context of the 2030 Agenda and was developed with contributions from experts, major groups and other relevant stakeholders. He suggested the appointment of Goodwill Ambassadors or Envoys on forests.

A speaker from the scientific and technological major group, citing paragraphs 17, 19 and 22 of Economic and Social Council resolution 2015/33 on the international arrangement on forests beyond 2015, called on the Secretariat to strengthen engagement with major groups. His group was a major investor in forests. Stressing that development Goal 7, on responsible consumption and production, could bring together forest actors, retailers and public procurement companies, he appealed to the Forum on Forests to do whatever it takes to attract those investors.

The representative of Switzerland questioned proposals for the creation of new mechanisms, notably to foster cooperation between the Forum on Forests and regional and subregional processes, asking what type of mechanism it would be and who would finance it. On the proposal for an interregional coordination mechanism, she said the existing reporting format sufficed. The Forum on Forests was a policy body, not a capacity-building entity. She did not think a mechanism was needed to exchange information with regional and subregional organizations, as there were already intersessional activities and venues. She also did not think a stakeholder consultation was something the Forum on Forests should organize and similarly expressed scepticism about facilitating a network on poverty reduction, timber trade and illegal logging, which would supersede the Forum on Forest’s mandate. We should not actually build a network on this, she said, questioning as well what a multistakeholder advisory group would do.

The representative of Ghana welcomed the International Day 2018 theme of forests and education, noting that, each 21 March, a ministerial news conference was organized to create awareness about the importance of forests, which was followed by television and radio discussions, mainly targeting young people.

The representative of Kenya described the legislative framework for his country to participate in international processes for implementing the Strategic Plan. The national forestry programme coordinated activities for 2016-2030 and was a joint venture between Kenya and Finland. Kenya’s close working relationship with the Forum on Forests had been instrumental in implementation of the programme’s priorities.

A speaker from the Global Force Coalition, citing paragraph 15 of the report, stressed the importance of following the outcomes of meetings in Ottawa, as well as hosting stakeholder consultations and maintaining a database of major group experts. He agreed with the representative of Switzerland that a multistakeholder advisory group was not needed.

The representative of Morocco said the International Day coincided with the Mediterranean Forest Summit, organized by FAO, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Global Partnership for the Restoration of Forests, where participants adopted an obligations document that referenced the Strategic Plan.

A speaker from the Africa Forest Forum recognized the importance of regional institutions in implementing forest decisions. He called on the Collaborative Partnership to better coordinate on national, regional and subregional levels, and on the Forum on Forests Secretariat to both improve collaboration with regional and subregional processes, and to coordinate the monitoring, reporting and sharing of information on progress made in sustainable forest management.

Mr. SOBRAL FILHO then introduced a note by the Forum on Forest secretariat on the means of implementation for sustainable forest management (document E/CN.18/2017/4), pointing out that the greatest source of sustainable forest financing had been, and would continue to be, private investments. The note, however, reviewed the situation of international public financing, focusing on the role of forest funding in the context of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and other recent international commitments. Noting that the Addis Agenda had referred to forests in the context of combating hunger and malnutrition, he said the Green Climate Fund � which had become operational in 2015 � had deployed $711 million for 43 projects under its Sustainable Forest Management Programme. The Paris Agreement, which now had 144 parties, had also called on States to focus on reducing deforestation and improve forest conservation.

Providing a brief update on the work of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network, he said the new Strategic Plan for Forests called on the Network to promote and assist the design of national forest financing strategies, help countries in mobilizing resources and serve as a clearing house and tool for sharing lessons learned and best practices. Over the last two years, the Network had learned that working directly with countries was very effective as provided them with targeted, tailor-made support. Helping to mobilize funding was also critical, as were regional and subregional workshops aimed at raising national awareness on forest financing opportunities and catalysing national actions. Even modest funding can have a meaningful impact, he stressed in that regard.

Means of Implementation

This afternoon, the Forum held a panel discussion on means of implementation for sustainable forest management. Moderated by Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programmes, Global Environment Facility Secretariat, it featured three panellists: Penny Davies, Programme Officer for Equitable Development, Ford Foundation; Werner Kornexl, Manager, Programme on Forests; and Ivan Tomaselli, President, STCP Engenharia de Projectos Limitida.

Ms. DAVIES, noting that the Ford Foundation was the second-largest private donor in the United States, focused her presentation on what the Foundation and other private philanthropic funds were doing to secure sustainable and equitable forest management, and why. Saying the Ford Foundation planned to disburse $1 billion over the next 10 years into private funds promoting social and environmental justice activities, she described two specific streams of forest-related investment financing: first, sustainable agriculture that did not clear natural forests and included some protection of forests; and second, sustainable forest management and community-based forest management. However, we are finding it difficult to place [that financing], she said, due to a number of constraints that made those investments too difficult to justify.

The first of those risks, she said, was incoherent spatial mapping and uncertain land tenure, where investments could be contested by several parties. The second risk was conflict, she said, noting that conflict could cause delays in the Foundation’s projects or cause the withdrawal of its partners. We look for countries and places to invest in where tenure is secure and recognized, and local people had given their prior and informed consent, she said, noting that a country that was attractive for investment was one with green domestic credit lines promoting sustainable land use, or a Government that named and shamed parties promoting such practices as unsustainable land use, or logging. When it did invest, the Foundation supported the creation of community-managed funds for community forestry, she said, citing the Brazilian Fundo Dema as an example. It also helped to establish intermediary funds that could connect forest communities with international financing and expertise.

Mr. KORNEXL, pointing to an existing consensus that environmental services from forests were essential for the world’s climate, livelihood, soil preservation, water regulation and biodiversity, said there was, nevertheless, a widening gap in investments in those areas. Recalling that the World Bank’s Forest Action Plan had been established in 2016 to increase the Bank’s footprint in the forest sector � concentrating on sustainable forestry and on Forest Smart investments � he said such investments were still very risky. Those risks meant that many common financial instruments were not applied to forests. While the Bank’s current forest portfolio included about $500-$600 million per year, the amount was still very low compared to what was needed.

In that context, he said, the Programme on Forests was leading the analytics to drive the forest investment agenda. Indeed, while Forest Smart investment seemed to be an easy concept, it was actually very difficult to implement because Governments, the United Nations and the World Bank itself were all organized into silos. Clear leadership and more synergies were needed, as were increased knowledge and the delivery systems to reach rural areas with technology. Calling for the appropriate mix of funding instruments in that regard, he said financing needed to be reinvented every day as we learn more about the needs. Flexible, cross-sectoral thinking was essential in order to overcome the notion that most financing instruments were too risky in the context of forests, he said, adding that such instruments as Green Bonds and fiscal transfer mechanisms were complex, but doable.

Mr. TOMASELLI, asking why the private sector would invest in sustainable forest management, pointed out that the sector sought a consistent supply of timber and non-timber products. The global demand for timber currently stood at about 4 billion cubic metres per year. There were two main sources of supply: forest plantations and natural forests. The private sector spent an estimated $125-$170 billion just to manage those forests, he said, calling for scaled up expertise and technology that would result in more sustainable supplies of forest goods. Investments were based on a series of factors that sought to maximize economic value, in particular forest policy, market and market access and technology and expertise.

Noting that institutional investors such as equity funds, pension funds, insurance companies and large fortunes were today increasing their forest-related investments, he said timber investment management organizations known as TIMOs currently managed more than $60 billion in forest assets and had replaced industry as the main forest managers in many countries. Such organizations were designed to maximize returns, he said, adding that investments in research and development had largely declined.

Mr. FONSECA, recalling that forests had been central to the Global Environment Facility since its inception, said the Facility had supported 411 forest-related projects amounting to $2.7 billion � and leveraging some $13.8 billion in co-financing � since 1991. Those programmes targeted biodiversity, climate change mitigation and the inefficient use of land, as well as improving local livelihoods. The Paris Agreement on climate change and the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the Role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Enhancement of Forest Carbon Stocks in Developing Countries (REDD+) framework spotlighted the Facility as one of the leading instruments to finance such projects.

Noting that the Facility had made increasing amounts of funding available for forests and worked to bring local communities and other forest stakeholders into the mainstream, he described its cooperation with the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network and similar complementary instruments, which sought to raise awareness of the availability of the Facility in a number of countries. The Facility had also developed a financing approach that recognized the key role of agricultural commodities, such as palm oil and soy, aimed at ensuring that they were eventually produced in a deforestation-free manner. In addition, the Facility had launched a pilot non-grant instrument project aimed at increasing forest-related investments by reducing market risks, he said.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates from a range of countries described their experiences of having received sustainable forest management financing from the Green Climate Fund, the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network, REDD+ and other sources. The representative of Mexico, for one, noted that his country had received critical financial support from its multilateral and bilateral donors � as well as from the Global Environment Facility � and had been able to develop its forestry sector as a result.

Similarly, the representative of Ecuador recalled that his country had been the first to receive a disbursement from the Green Climate Fund, and was now working closely with the World Bank to facilitate sustainable forest-related investments and the promotion of sustainable forest plantations.

The representative of Bhutan emphasized that the sustainable management of forests was a priority for his country and played a central role in its overall sustainable development strategy. Bhutan’s forest cover currently stood at 71 per cent and 51 per cent of its land had been designated as protected areas � one of the highest levels in the world. Posing a number of questions for the panellists, he asked Ms. Davies why the Ford Foundation had found it so difficult to place its forest-related investments, and whether it was working with Governments, non-governmental organizations or other partners to place those funds. He also asked Mr. Fonseca whether the Global Environment Facility had any activities planned in South Asia, and asked Mr. Tomaselli whether he saw a real appetite among the private sector to invest more capital in sustainable forests.

Responding, Ms. DAVIES said the Ford Foundation worked through its various regional offices, including Asia-based offices in Delhi and Jakarta. It did not invest its funds through Governments, but usually delivered investments directly to project proponents, such as local communities. However, that model involved some constraints, she said, noting that all project proponents had to be legally constituted entities with good governance.

Mr. TOMASELLI said that, while he was quite optimistic about private sector investments, he, nevertheless, expected that it will take a bit longer to see those investments increase.

Speakers also made a number of specific observations about the various forest-related financing instruments and issued concrete recommendations. The representative of the European Union pointed out that transparency, good governance and effective and accountable institutions � as well as results-based programming, monitoring and assessment � were all critical to the evolution of sustainable forest management, and underlined the need to focus financing efforts on the priorities of the new Strategic Plan for Forests while also placing more emphasis on cooperation with other sectors.

The representative of the United States agreed that there was a clear connection between transparent forest governance and clear land use rights on the one hand, and attracting investment on the other. Making a number of clarifications with regard to the secretariat’s note and the panellists’ comments, she said that, while some had cited waning support for REDD+, billions of dollars were still available to countries under that programme if they could show reductions in their emissions. She also pointed out that the United States was currently reviewing its climate change commitments, including those under the Paris Agreement, and therefore reserved its position on the matter.

Meanwhile, the representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, expressed optimism that the existing forest-related financing instruments would be more effectively utilized. Noting that that would require the provision of more adequate and predictable resources, he called on the Global Environment Facility in particular to find better ways of assisting developing countries.

The representative of South Africa, associating herself with that statement, asked Mr. Fonseca what proportion of the Global Environment Facility’s planned support would be given to the African continent. The representative of Brazil echoed calls to mobilize financing for developing countries, while the representative of Malaysia emphasized that such financing must include the transfer of environmentally sound technology. The representative of Niger � noting that forests in Sahel countries were critical for pastoralism and relied heavily on customary use rights � asked Mr. Tomaselli how private financing could be increased for the preservation of those activities.

To that question, Ms. DAVIES responded that neither the public not private sector could make investments unless there was a strong enabling environment in place. Groups that were merely customary in nature posed a challenge, she said, adding that you have to get your rule of law in order before any investment was possible. In that regard, she spotlighted the role of public-private partnerships to help Governments invest where the private sector could not.

Mr. KORNEXL, responding more broadly to those comments and questions, agreed that the World Bank should focus more of its activities on the de-risking of sustainable forest-related investments and increase its efforts to bring together capacity, research and solutions across various sectors. Indeed, he said, that cross-sectoral approach was a huge and very exiting agenda into which the Bank was ready to move.

Mr. TOMASELLI said the private sector � as the most important investor in sustainable forest management � would increase its forest-related investments all over the world in the coming year. Pointing out that private investors expected higher returns when they took on greater risks, he said Governments could, therefore, make forest-related investments more attractive by facilitating access to technology, improving the expertise of forest managers, reducing transaction costs, reducing corruption and increasing compliance.

Also speaking were the representatives of Germany, Cameroon, Saint Lucia, China and Guinea. A representative of the Scientific and Technological Community also participated.

Source: United Nations

Schools observe moment of silence for crash victims


Durban � In 2016, the total contribution of travel and tourism to the gross domestic product (GDP) of South Africa was R402bn (9.3% of GDP) and this is expected to grow by 2.5% to R412.2bn (9.4% of GDP) in 2017.

These figures highlight the importance of tourism to the economy and the crucial contribution the sector is making towards job creation. With global business leaders meeting in Durban for World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA), many here are exploring ideas on how Africa can fully take advantage of the opportunities offered by tourism, for example through regional integration and making it easier for Africans to travel throughout the continent.

Strict Visa laws, transport costs, are just some of the barriers to travellers in Africa and some say unless these are addressed, the economic opportunities in tourism will not be fully explored.

Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa, speaking to SAnews at the WEFA summit, said Heads of State needed to take leadership on the issue.

When you talk tourism, you talk ease of access, we talking opening borders and making sure people don’t get restricted unnecessarily. We are also a diverse continent and we need to learn about each other’s cultures and we can only do this through tourism but if there are restrictions, this will not happen, Minister Xasa said.

If we work together, we can fully benefit all of us from the multibillion rand tourism sector but at the moment there are challenges.

The Minister said South Africa has now embarked on a programme to train cross-border tourist guides to ensure that South Africa strengthen its tourism potential in the countries that surround it. � The WEFA summit is expected to wrap up on Friday

Source: South African Government News Agency

Africa rich yet poor: Deputy President


Durban � Although Africa is rich with mineral resources, its people will not be able to realise the full benefit of these opportunities unless the continent acts now to develop its human capacity.

We have vast tracts of unused arable land that could feed the world.

We have a young population, a fast-growing middle class. The mineral resources we have, though abundant, are finite. They are prone to massive fluctuations in demand and price, the Deputy President said in Durban on Friday.

Unless we have the technology, the knowledge and the industrial capacity to beneficiate these mineral resources, our people will only derive a fraction of their true economic value. We need, as responsive and responsible leadership, to take a long view, he said at the end of the three-day World Economic Forum on Africa.

As the curtain was drawn on the meeting, the Deputy President reminded delegates that the future of many Africans depends on the decisions they take going forward.

More than 1000 global business leaders, Heads of State and civil society gathered at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre since Wednesday to discuss some of the critical economic issues facing the continent.

We need to address the challenges of the present, but we need to equip the next generation to address the challenges of the future. Our attention now needs to be on action and deliverables.

When delegates convene again in 2018, they need to demonstrate the gains that have been made in expanding economic opportunities for the people of Africa, he said.

We need to demonstrate how the economic status of women has improved; how we have expanded youth employment and skills development.

We need to demonstrate how our governments are managing public finances and allocating resources more effectively to support inclusive growth, said the Deputy President.

Most importantly, he said, Africans need to demonstrate how we are massively expanding the provision of early childhood development, education, skills and training.

To achieve progress in these areas, bold and responsible leadership was required.

Governments needed to give leadership, but so too does the private sector, civil society and labour.

We need a leadership that puts the needs of citizens first. As we leave Durban, let us leave understanding the urgency of our task.

Source: South African Government News Agency