Assistant Director-General of the FAO Forestry Department
Mr Eduardo Rojas-Briales
Assistant Director-General and
Head of the Forestry Department
For the first time ever, Africa is hosting the XIV World Forestry Congress, the most important and inclusive gathering of the global forest community. Established in 1926, the Congress has the vital task of discussing emerging issues in the forestry sector and guiding ways to address them over the coming decades. FAO has been entrusted with the responsibility of supporting the Congress in close cooperation with any given host country since the UN system was established in 1945. We are delighted that the Republic of South Africa has offered to host such a significant gathering.
Africa showcases the most important global challenges and opportunities for forests and forestry. Climate change, urbanization, increasing demands on commodities (food, fuel, fibre and forests – the so-called 4Fs) and environmental services, competition for public funding as well as the need to empower local communities, engage the private sector and strengthen governance and institutional reform are just a few. Forests play an essential role in the region. More than a quarter of Africa’s overall energy supply comes from forests, and they are crucial for preventing and reversing desertification. At the same time, however, forests have been seen as significant water consumers themselves.
FAO hopes that all of these issues, and especially the way that they interconnect, will be addressed at the Congress and that the discussions will equip the forest community with a deeper understanding to face the complexities of the world we live in. If there is a common element to the current challenges, it is their global nature. We are confident that with your presence, with the support of governments, civil society, the private sector and academia, and with inspiration from South Africa, the Congress will meet all our expectations and provide the legacy we want – and need – for the future.