The CITES Secretariat and the fourteen members of the Cooperative Partnership on Forests (CPF) have issued a joint statement calling for the integration of sustainable forest management in all efforts towards a global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that investing in forests is investing in our future.
The pandemic has served as a wake-up call on the state of our relationship with nature: a global biodiversity-loss crisis, driven by unsustainable exploitation of natural systems, wild species and their habitats and the effects of climate change, has left ecosystems unable to fend off emerging new diseases and increased the risk that these may spill over to humans.
Through its joint statement, the CPF urges decision-makers to ensure that recovery plans do not reverse hard-won progress towards conserving forests, reducing and reversing forest loss and degradation and boosting sustainable production and trade in agricultural and forest products.
Instead, CPF partners call for the global community to include strong commitments toward the implementation of the globally agreed forest-related goals and targets for halting deforestation and forest degradation in all efforts to rebuild a post-COVID world, as part of a broader shift towards a more resilient, sustainable future in which the Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved.
Restoration and sustainable management of all types of forests and trees outside forests, the CPF argues, is key to unlocking the nature-based solutions to the challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change and of reducing the risks of future pandemics. If managed and invested in properly, forests can provide a safety net both for species and ecosystems, and for the well-being and livelihoods of people and communities around the world – particularly in rural and remote areas.
“Forest and woodlands are among the central pillars of our planet’s biodiversity and a crucial purveyor of essential services and livelihoods for millions of people. Ensuring they are conserved and that their future use is guided first and foremost by concerns of sustainability must be one of the priorities of any efforts to build a more balanced, sustainable relationship with our natural systems in a post-COVID-19 world,” said CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero.
Forests provide essential ecosystem services for wildlife and humans alike. They provide resources that power entire economic sectors, underpin countless jobs and enable us to meet some of our most basic needs by ensuring the fertility of soils and the filtering and storing of freshwater. Worldwide, close to a billion people rely on forests to varying degrees for their nutrition and an estimated 2.4 billion people use wood for heating and cooking.
From a CITES perspective, the pandemic has put on hold some crucial decision-making processes associated to compliance cases for tree species listed in the Appendices. Yet the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic on forests are yet to be fully understood. It remains unclear, for example, how measures taken to manage the COVID-19 health, social and economic impacts have affected international trade in CITES-listed trees and their range States, forest industries or the livelihoods of communities highly reliant on forests, or even how illegal activities may evolve.
CITES Parties should seek to better monitor the effects of the pandemic on scientific research and decision-making processes related to the trade in CITES-listed forest species. This will be key in preparing for the next Conference of the Parties, and to pave the way for the adoption of Resolutions and Decisions on such species and in response to the emergence of zoonoses.
The CPF is a voluntary partnership of 15 international organizations, institutions and secretariats with substantial programmes on forests.
Its members are the CITES Secretariat, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD Secretariat), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Environment Facility (GEF Secretariat), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD Secretariat), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF Secretariat), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC Secretariat), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and the World Bank.