The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) was established by ECOSOC in 2000 via Resolution 2000/35. Unlike many other entities created by ECOSOC, UNFF has universal membership, highlighting the global importance of forest preservation. The work of the UNFF is organized under Programmes of Work spanning 3–7-year periods. As of May 2020, the newest Programme of Work, spanning 2021–2024, is still being decided by member states. However, the previous Programme of Work was closely tied to the Sustainable Development Goals and led to the creation of the “United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017–2030,” which was also adopted by ECOSOC.
Topic A: Enhancing the Role of Forests in Social Inclusion and Equality
The United Nations adopted a strategic plan outlining six global forest goals for 2017 through 2030 that the Forum on Forests uses as a framework for their actions. One of their objectives, Goal 2, concerns forest-dependent populations, calling on the international community to “enhance forest-based economic, social, and environmental benefits.” Forests support the lifestyles of over 1.6 billion people around the world, with about 350 million people completely dependent on forests for subsistence. Thus, it is extremely important that the UNFF addresses the many challenges forest-dependent communities endure. These populations face significant income inequalities and unjust working conditions. Vulnerable groups within those populations, such as women and indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by these issues that are only exacerbated by the ongoing effects of climate change. By enforcing equitable land tenure laws and integrating the vital knowledge of women and indigenous peoples, the management of forests can become increasingly sustainable and promote economic growth. This will in turn improve the ability of forests to provide its life-sustaining services such as food, energy, shelter, and clean air and water. Without action from the UNFF, socio-economic inequalities will continue to grow, which further threatens nations’ abilities to protect their people and their forests.
Topic B: Reducing the Impact of the Mining Industry on Forests
While mining is helpful for the economic sector, resource extraction has always been environmentally disruptive, especially when considering that extractive industries tend to be located in ecologically sensitive forests. The Amazon Rainforest itself produces 20% of the world’s oxygen and covers more than 6.7 million km2, and this is only one of the many forests to protect in the world. Forests support 80% of global biodiversity, which in turn generates ecosystem services (water, food, fuel, etc.) that support over 1.6 billion people. However, every year, about 70 thousand km2 of forests are lost from their most sensitive areas, most of it attributed to the mining impact. Mining results in two types of impact: primary, which occurs immediately and near extraction sites; and secondary, which includes deforestation, the loss of biodiversity, the introduction of invasive alien species, amongst many other effects. This activity accounts for 7% of total forest loss, and for nearly 10% of deforestation in the Amazon within only 2005 and 2015. Understanding the long-term impacts of the mining industry on the environment, particularly forests, is important so that the world helps recuperate the affected areas and moves towards more sustainable mining and over-all resource extraction. It is also important to consider the effects of illegal mining, as more than 2,300 illicit mining sites across only six Amazon countries were found by the end of 2018. Delegates should focus on helping to mitigate the primary impacts of resource extraction in the industry, as well as helping reduce the prospect of these secondary impacts by promoting and implementing sustainable mining activities.