• Representatives from more than 35 nations expected to attend May-June 2011 event, in celebration of the International Year of Forests 2011
  • Three regions account for nearly 80 percent of world’s rainforests and contain two-thirds of world’s terrestrial diversity
  • Announcement made by Republic of Congo’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Forest Economy, and the Environment Henri Djombo

NEW YORK  (April 13, 2011) – The Republic of Congo announced today that it will host a climate summit next month for the heads of state of 35 nations covering the three major rainforest regions in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, in celebration of the International Year of Forests (Forests 2011). The announcement was made at the United Nations by Henri Djombo, Republic of Congo’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Forest Economy, and the Environment.

The summit, to be held from May 31 through June 3, 2011 in the Republic of Congo’s capital Brazzaville, will bring together nearly 500 delegates from the world’s three largest tropical rainforest basins: the Congo Basin in Central Africa (11 nations); the Amazon Basin of South America (12 nations); and the Mekong-Borneo Basin in Southeast Asia (12 nations).  Heads of state have also been invited from an additional 19 tropical countries.

Partners for the summit include 13 donor countries, multiple branches of the United Nations, including the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), African Union, World Bank, Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The goal of the summit is to facilitate an exchange of information among nations to contribute to the sustainable management of forest ecosystems in the three basins.  This will ensure a greater contribution to the regulation and stabilization of the planet’s climate, the fight against poverty, and economic development.

“This summit will be extremely important for the future of the world’s major rainforests,” said Henri Djombo, the Republic of Congo’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Forest Economy and the Environment. “The Republic of Congo is proud to host this summit, and we look forward to a productive gathering.”

The Summit will culminate in the signing of an agreement among the basins that will serve as a formal framework for consultation and discussions on forestry and climate issues. It will also produce a joint statement on tropical forests, climate, and sustainable development to feed into the future Climate Agreement in Durban, South Africa (COP, 17), and the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil.        

The three rainforest basins account for 80 percent of the world’s tropical forests and are home to two-thirds of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. They also provide globally important environmental goods and services such as regulation and stabilization of the global climate, while providing livelihoods to more than one billion of the world’s most impoverished people.

The Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests, Ms. Jan McAlpine, pointed out that: “Every one of us, all 7 billion people on earth, has our physical, economic and spiritual health tied to the health of our forest ecosystems,” adding: “Throughout Forests 2011, we will celebrate this intricate, interdependent relationship between forests and people.”

Forest loss is accelerating at a rapid pace across much of the three basins, and forest degradation and destruction now account for 20 percent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. Thus, the sustainable management of these forests and the biodiversity they support are a global concern.

Given this reality, and the fact that the countries of the three rainforest basins face similar challenges, cooperation between governments of the basins is urgently needed if we are to successfully combat global climate change.

"The planned summit underscores forest nations’ commitment and leadership in forest conservation, which is essential to a sustainable future for us all,” said John Robinson, WCS Executive Vice President for Conservation and Science. “Leaders from the three forest basins can guide concrete action in support of the United Nations International Year of Forests, the conservation of biodiversity, and the fight against climate change through their efforts in Brazzaville.  We praise Minister Djombo and the Republic of Congo for hosting this important summit.”

Stephen Sautner: (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)
John Delaney: (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org

The Wildlife Conservation Society is a technical partner with the Government of the Republic of Congo. WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide.  We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo.  Together these activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony.  WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

The International Year of Forests
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness of sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. The secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs serves as the focal point for the implementation of the International Year of Forests. The Secretariat works in cooperation with governments, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) and international, regional and sub-regional organizations and processes, as well as relevant major groups. For more information visit www.un.org/forests

The United Nations Forum on Forests
The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) was established in October 2000 by the Resolution 2000/35 of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC). It is a subsidiary body with the main objective to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end, based on the Rio Declaration, the Forest Principles, Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 and the outcome of the IPF/IFF Processes and other key milestones of international forest policy. The Forum has universal membership, and is composed of all Member States of the United Nations and specialized agencies. For more information visit http://www.un.org/esa/forests/index.html