Following in the footsteps of 2010’s International Year of Biodiversity, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests. The year of events, as well as interactive web tools and resources, are intended to raise awareness about the sustainable management, conservation, and sustainable development of all types of forests. It will be overseen by the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF).
Over the past decade, 5.2 million hectares of forest cover have disappeared. In addition, deforestation creates more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector. There are strong and scientifically-based criticisms of the current and emerging international forest governance system, especially regarding the prevalent focus on market-based mechanisms that narrowly view forests as carbon sinks and ignore forests’ contributions to agriculture, energy, medicine, and the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people on our planet. The awareness that will be raised by global initiatives such as the International Year of Forests is clearly needed, but they must be complemented by the full and effective participation of those who are affected most by such governance systems to ensure social and environmental justice for all.