Helen Clark: Speech at the launch of the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI)Sep 29, 2015
It is a pleasure to be here tonight at this important event to launch the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI).
Last week, after many months of negotiations between UN Member States, the post-2015 sustainable development agenda was adopted. The agreed “Agenda 2030” is ambitious and visionary, with goals and targets aimed at achieving many challenges: inclusive growth, decent work, gender equality, water and sanitation, access to energy, and environmental sustainability.
One of the major challenges in way of that agenda is climate change. In taking on that challenge, conserving the world's forests will play a critical role. Forests absorb carbon dioxide and they make an important contribution to the global fight against climate change.
There are also many other ecosystem services flowing from them which contribute to human development:
* They provide precious drinking water and protect watersheds;
* They build soils and support fisheries;
* They harbour incredible biodiversity, and are home to wildlife and plants found nowhere else on earth.
The Congo Basin is home to the second largest tropical rainforest in the world, and its soil is exceptionally endowed with natural resources. Its forests are coming under increasing pressure and must be protected. Throughout human history, our forests have given way to
other land uses – particularly to agriculture – but extractive industries take their toll too.
Bold new initiatives are needed to turn that old model of development on its head. The Central African Forest Initiative is one of those initiative.
The initiative is open to six countries with high forest cover in the Congo Basin – Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea.
The good news is that protecting forests from deforestation and degradation can lead to development benefits in the form of employment, enhanced food security, and better protection of land rights.
At UNDP, we are fully committed to supporting initiatives like CAFI, which not only aim to protect forests but also
help communities advance their development objectives. The trust and strong relationships developed over the course of establishing this excellent partnership will continue to determine the quality of its results and impacts over time.
This initiative is not the first attempt in the region; it builds on years of dialogue and action through a number of initiatives like the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC), the Congo Basin Forest Fund, and the Joint Declaration of Durban. CAFI will complement these initiatives.
Tonight, we are here as a sign of our commitment to support the Central African governments in their efforts to invest in their forests – to contribute to their sustainable development needs and to contribute to global climate mitigation efforts.
To advance and capitalize commitments made tonight and efforts to protect the second largest tropical forest basin, we have created a dedicated Multi-Partner Trust Fund. This Fund will bridge a funding gap, and will focus new investment in a region which thus far has not benefited from the same amount of funding as other forested regions.
I would like to acknowledge and sincerely thank all the countries represented here tonight for your leadership, vision, and financial contribution to this innovative and critically important initiative.
The timing of this launch is just right. As UN Member States turn their attention to implementation of the “Agenda 2030”, and with a global climate agreement scheduled to be finalized in Paris at the end of the year, keeping up the momentum on forest conservation is essential. We hope that the commitments manifested here tonight will boost action with multiple wins – for the climate, for inclusive development, and for economic growth.
UNDP is honoured and proud to stand with the governments of Central Africa in this process. I particularly wish to recognize the support of Norway, the European Commission, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Brazil. We look forward to working with our multilateral partners, the World Bank and the FAO to advance our efforts. Not only will successfully tackling deforestation in the Congo Basin greatly benefit this region, but it is also of huge importance for our world as a whole.