Helen Clark: Opening Speech at a Ford Foundation Event on “The Forest and Climate Challenge: Business, Government and Indigenous Community Leaders Call for Action”

Sep 22, 2014

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Opening Speech
at a
Ford Foundation Event on
“The Forest and Climate Challenge: Business, Government and Indigenous Community Leaders Call for Action”
Ford Foundation, New York

I congratulate the Ford Foundation and the Climate and Land Use Alliance, for putting together this event. I am very pleased to be a part of it and apologize in advance for having to leave early.

Around a year ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked UNDP to help convene the forests action area of tomorrow’s Climate Summit. Since then, we at UNDP have been working hard with partners to ensure that forests will feature prominently at the Summit.

As I look around this room, I see many people who have been closely involved in supporting the Forests component of the Climate Summit. Indeed, I can’t imagine a more powerful coalition of leaders on this issue than those gathered here today.

I see representatives from Member States:  Brazil, Indonesia (Pak Kuntoro), Norway (Per Pharo), the UK and Peru (Minister Pulgar-Vidal) – many of the key countries in the fight against climate change.

Alongside them are leaders of the private sector – Paul Polman of Unilever, Dominic Waughray of the World Economic Forum, and representatives of Nestle, Walmart, Cargill and Kellogg’s.

Indigenous leaders from around the world (Vicky Tauli-Corpuz), and leaders of civil society (Kumi Naidoo, Andrew Steer) are present.

That means that right here in this room are the sectors and the people who have the potential to tackle deforestation decisively.

The multi-sectoral nature of this meeting is fully consistent with the approach to be articulated at the Climate Summit tomorrow. Many of you will be participating in the events around the Summit – either in the Forests Pavilion tomorrow morning, or in the formal Forests session of the Summit tomorrow afternoon. UNDP is very grateful for the work all of you have done to make forests such a vital part of the Climate Summit and of Climate Week more broadly.

A multi-stakeholder approach like the one adopted on forests is the only way we can solve the problem of deforestation. No one sector can solve the problem alone. A strong global partnership is needed whereby:

o    Developing forest countries implement land use reforms to help their economies grow without destroying their forests;

o    The international community delivers on its promise to include economic incentives in the climate agreement in Paris next year; and

o    The private sector eliminates deforestation from its supply chains.

Knowing that this co-operation is what is needed, it is very encouraging to see the diverse range of sectors which is coming together to tackle deforestation – it gives us all hope that we are on the right track.

At UNDP we are fully committed to playing our part. For example:

o    Through the UN-REDD Programme, we are partnering with UNEP and FAO to work in over fifty countries to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation through the development and implementation of national REDD+ strategies; and,

o    Through multi-stakeholder collaboration under UNDP's Green Commodity Programme, we help bring together public and private efforts to transform commodity sectors to help remove deforestation from supply chains.

No conversation about forests is valid without emphasizing the commitment of indigenous people to keep forests intact.

Where indigenous people have retained ownership and control, forests are generally still standing, often at great personal sacrifice. This illustrates the critical role they, and other forest communities, can play in the fight against climate change if they are empowered to do so.  

That point, is reinforced in the report by the World Resources Institute and the Resources and Rights Initiative on this matter, which emphasizes that one of the best ways to protect forests and ensure livelihoods is to ensure that rights are respected.

We at UNDP are deeply committed to this agenda for forest protection, and prioritize the full and effective engagement of indigenous peoples in REDD+ through the UN-REDD Programme.

Also, through UNDP’s Equator Initiative, and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, we work to empower local and indigenous communities. Tonight, the Equator Prize will be presented to 25 local and indigenous communities for their outstanding efforts to protect forest and other ecosystems, food security, and livelihoods at the Lincoln Centre.

Allow me to conclude by emphasizing what we all know: that we cannot get on the path to a two degree climate change scenario without making real progress on stopping deforestation and greatly expanding forest restoration efforts.

The co-operation of leading individuals and sectors represented in this room today is so critical for success – I know that we all share the view that it is possible to increase inclusive growth, improve local livelihoods, and still keep forests standing and intact.

At UNDP, we are delighted to be your partner on this journey.

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