Forests are one of the most vital ecosystems in our world covering one third of the Earth's land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Forests are also home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Forests, their sustainable management and use of resources, including in fragile ecosystems, are key to combating climate change, and to contributing to the prosperity and well-being of current and future generations. Forests also play a crucial role in poverty alleviation and in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate. The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests in 2012. Since then the Day celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests. The theme for 2020 is “Forests and Biodiversity”.
With 13 million hectares of forest, Mongolia’s forest provides a significant contribution to the global ecosystem, home to number of threatened species including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and an income source for nomadic herders and the rural population serving as a source of firewood, food and grazing land for livestock.
Recognizing the important role of forests in environmental and socio-economy development, the United Nations has a long history of partnership with the Government of Mongolia in combatting deforestation and supporting sustainable forest management. Forests are a key component of Mongolia’s Sustainable Development Vision and Green Development Policy as well as the National Programme on Biodiversity.
In the last 30 years, the Government has joined international efforts in saving forests, improved legal frameworks and adopted policies to protect forests. Behavior-changing initiatives among the public have also been introduced such as celebrating National Tree Planting Day on the first weekends of May and October.
Despite all the efforts, forests in Mongolia as well as across the globe, face the threat of deforestation and degradation. The major factors behind this include forest fire, overgrazing, mining, improper management, poor enforcement of forest legislation, damage by pests and diseases and the ever-increasing climate change impacts. With rapid loss of forests and forest degradation, biodiversity is also under serious threat, leaving many ecosystems in danger of collapse. A report released in 2019 stresses the biodiversity extinction rate is both unprecedented in human history and rapidly rising, "with grave impacts on people around the world now likely."
Saving our forests is possible if we act NOW. But that should be a joint effort of scientists and policymakers, local people and NGOs working together towards a common goal. Sustainable forest management is key to addressing intertwined economic, environmental, and social challenges.
UN Mongolia is committed to promoting sustainable approaches to natural resource management, especially forest resources, and several projects and programs are being implemented jointly with the Government of Mongolia to meet Aichi Biodiversity targets under Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is collaborating closely with the Ministry of Environment to integrate sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation, carbon sink enhancement and co-implemented the REDD+ initiative on forest inventory, to introduce sustainable harvest management and to prevent further degradation through supporting reforestation in Mongolia.
Despite the efforts made, we still have much more to do. Forest and biodiversity is a whole ecosystem that we cannot afford to lose. With this message, the United Nations in Mongolia calls upon everyone to take action on protecting each tree and its living organism for the current and future generations.