Excellency, Tserenbat Namsrai (Minister of Environment and Tourism, Mongolia)
Excellency, U Ohn Win, Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation of the Union of Myanmar
Excellency, the Honorable John Pundari, Minister of Environment and Climate Change of Papua New Guinea

On behalf of UNDP, I would like to thank you and your teams for having presented some really relevant information about progress on REDD+ in your countries, and links to the SDGs and your Nationally Determined Contributions to the UNFCCC.

It has been an honour for UNDP to host this event, and I am delighted to see that it has generated interest among delegates to COP-23.

Deforestation and forest degradation are driven by many factors, but there is one common theme: the value attributed to forested land has traditionally been less than that attributed to cleared land. Maybe because we had much of the further and not enough of the latter at some point in human history, we have neglected what we were destroying and not recovering.

REDD+ is about changing that and building a new concept of wealth and progress, based on the recognition of the true value of forests, as part of our natural resources.

Ever since COP-13 in Bali, ten years ago, UNDP has been playing an active role in helping countries to prepare for, and now to implement REDD+.  This has been most visible through the UN-REDD Programme, jointly implemented by FAO, UNDP, and UNEP, but UNDP has also served as Delivery Partner for the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership, and delivered the Community-Based REDD+ (CBR+) initiative, in partnership with the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme.  More recently, UNDP has served as Secretariat to the Central Africa Forest Initiative, CAFI, and also supports the Governors' Climate and Forests Task Force.

UNDP’s commitment to REDD+ stems largely from its strong linkage to human rights and participatory governance, indigenous peoples, poor rural communities and the rights of future generations. To achieve sustainable development, social empowerment must feature alongside economic and environmental objectives. Many of the poorest and most marginalized communities live in or depend on forests. These are UNDP’s most important stakeholders.  Their livelihoods must be secured in a deforestation-free, and low-carbon future.

It is these stakeholders, the “poorest of the poor”, who are most dependent on the global public goods provided by forests.  Yet in so many developing countries, weak governance means that influential individuals gain private benefits from forests, while the costs of poor forest management – in terms of greater exposure to climate risks, reduced provisioning capacity of forests, and loss of agricultural productivity - fall disproportionately on the poor.

Although these impacts are common to many countries, the circumstances underlying them are unique to each country.  We just heard from three very contrasting countries how they are beginning to tackle these challenges.

In Mongolia, which is particularly threatened by the impacts of desertification, conservation and sustainable management of forests, including the protection of permafrost, is the best, cheapest and most sustainable approach to supporting economic development.

In Myanmar, significant challenges remain in bringing peace along with prosperity to all parts of the country.  Since many of the continuing conflicts are related to natural resources, it is exciting to consider the role that REDD+ could play in promoting peace and reconciliation.

In Papua New Guinea, after an early misunderstanding about the way REDD+ might work, which we have fortunately put behind us, it is encouraging to see the progress now being made to build solid, multi-stakeholder ownership for a responsible REDD+ programme.

We at UNDP recognize that, in all three countries, and elsewhere, much remains to be done.  Ways need to be found to ensure deforestation-free sourcing of agricultural commodities; to ensure that economically marginalized rural populations benefit from these transformations, particularly smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples; and that the momentum for REDD+ built at the Warsaw and Paris COPs is maintained.

Particularly important in this respect – and I was delighted to see this highlighted in this side event – are links to the SDGs.  UNDP is committed to supporting countries with the implementation of the relevant global processes, including the SDGs and agreements reached on climate change. We will play our full part and lend our voice to the global efforts to advance the forests agenda as we move towards 2020, and beyond.

Thank you.

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