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Largest-ever World Forestry Congress calls for stronger cooperation

Delegates at the 15th World Forestry Congress celebrate at a closing ceremony held at Coex, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. (Yonap)
Delegates at the 15th World Forestry Congress celebrate at a closing ceremony held at Coex, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. (Yonap)

The 15th edition of the World Forestry Congress, the world’s largest gathering on forests, ended with delegates signing a joint declaration calling on enhanced cooperation across the world.

The Korea Forest Service said the latest edition of the WFC, which was held at Coex in Seoul between May 3-6, both online and offline, invited a total of some 15,000 people from 164 different countries, becoming the largest in the history of the congress.

Participants of the WFC this year adopted the Seoul Forest Declaration, identifying priority agendas that not just the forestry sector, but also stakeholders and institutions in different fields, should follow to build a green, healthy and resilient environment, the KFS said.

The WFC has also drawn significant agreements and discussions, envisioning healthy forests amid mounting threats from climate crisis, it added.

With the declaration, delegates reached a consensus that forest protection can help restore the Earth’s environmental balance and countries around the globe should therefore increase their cooperation on forests.

“We must now scale up political will and increase financial and technical investments. The Declaration will add to the sense of urgency to accelerate action, strengthen partnerships and enhance cross-sectoral collaboration,” said Maria Helena Semedo, the deputy director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in a statement.

The declaration, in detail, says that investment in forest and landscape restoration needs to triple by 2030 to meet internationally agreed commitments and targets on restoring degraded land.

In addition, an advent of a revolutionary financial solution that can support restoration and preservation of forests is also required, the declaration reads. 

The Korea Forest Service Minister Choi Byeong-am speaks during a closing ceremony of the 15th World Forestry Congress, held at Coex, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. (Yonhap)
The Korea Forest Service Minister Choi Byeong-am speaks during a closing ceremony of the 15th World Forestry Congress, held at Coex, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. (Yonhap)

The world, particularly the construction sector, should also use more sustainably sourced wood, to protect the environment, the declaration said.

Introducing data-based analytics to forest management is needed as well, to enable evidence-based forest and landscape decision-making, according to the declaration.

The declaration also stresses that the forestry sector, stakeholders, and government bodies should try to minimize damages to forests, which can greatly benefit human health, amid ongoing threats from COVID-19 and potential danger from future pandemics.

The KFS said the latest edition of the WFC allowed the world to recognize the huge potential of forests to help achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The KFS also expressed hopes that the declaration and new ideas that came out during the congress could help the world to join forces to increase forest health and climate resilience.

During the congress, ministerial level officials met together and agreed that the countries should make more investment in forest management. They particularly agreed on using more sustainably sourced wood, which could help them achieve their Nationally Determined Contributions.

Throughout the event, the KFS also shared the country’s history of forest management and related policies with the experts and government officials from other countries, through special events such as the Forest Fire Forum and the Peace Forestry Initiative high-level meetings.

The KFS noted that the events allowed it to solidify Korea’s position as one of the world’s leading nations in forestry.

The KFS also held meetings with government officials of 20 different countries to share ideas on forest management and discuss potential partnerships, according to the KFS.

The KFS expects South Korea would be able to facilitate new partnerships with foreign governments in the future, through which the country will share its forest management policies, related know-hows and technologies.

New partnerships with international organizations have been also made.

South Korea and the FAO launched the Assuring the Future of Forests with Integrated Risk Management mechanism, a global platform dedicated to strengthen countries’ capacities to implement integrated fire management.

South Korea and the United Nations Environment Programme also announced that they are developing the Sustaining an Abundance of Forest Ecosystems, an initiative for restoring damaged forests and securing biodiversity around the globe.

With the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries, South Korea agreed to look into new opportunities to promote REDD+, a platform dedicated to encourage countries to contribute to climate change mitigation efforts by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Businesses also joined the congress to share their recent efforts in preservation and sustainable management of forests. A total of 87 teams from companies and institutions joined a special exhibition to share their visions and products relating to the forestry sector.

During the congress, SK Group unveiled its environmental, social and governance goals. SK Forest, the forestry business arm of the business group, held an exhibition introducing the company’s recent efforts in forest management and carbon reduction.

SK E&S has also signed a three-way agreement with the East Timor government and SK Forest, through which they aim to introduce forest development projects and reduce carbon emissions.

Korea Aerospace Industries, South Korea’s sole aircraft manufacturer, also held an exhibition, featuring Surion-affiliated forest helicopters, along with other technologies that can be used in forest management.

Korea Forest Service Minister Choi Byeong-am said the latest WFC in Seoul has helped the country to step up its presence in the forestry sector.

Choi added that the country will expand its partnerships on forests, while continuing its efforts in forest protection.

By Shim Woo-hyun (
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Korea Herald daum