Nobel laureate appeals to UN forum for help with conservation of Congo

Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai today appealed to the United Nations Forum on Forests to help the people and Governments of Central Africa implement their commitment to conserve the forest ecosystems of the Congo Basin, the second-largest river basin after South America’s Amazon.The Congo Basin spreads over “200 million hectares – 18 per cent of the world’s tropical forests – and carries 400 mammal species and more than 10,000 plant species. It is home to thousands of indigenous people, who depend on the ecosystem to sustain their livelihoods,” she told the Forum’s fifth session.Managing the Basin’s resources sustainably and equitably for the long term would not only help to stabilize the planet’s atmosphere and ecology, but would foster peace in an area where many wars had been fought over resources, said Dr. Maathai, who is the Goodwill Ambassador for the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystems and also Kenya’s Deputy Minister for the Environment and Natural resources.The groups at war could find alternative ways of making a livelihood, but no alternatives to the ecosystems existed and once they were lost, poverty would only grow, Dr. Maathai said.In developing policies and legislation to manage their forests, Central African political leaders had called for a trust fund for good governance to be created with the debt servicing funds saved by cancellation of their external debts, she noted.The Governments had to be encouraged to see that writing documents on forest conservation should be followed by mobilizing their people to translate words into action by putting their hands into the soil and growing seedlings, she later told a news conference Tuesday, using the contrast between eroded Haiti and the green neighbouring Dominican Republic in the Caribbean as an example.Forum Chairman Manual Rodriguez-Becerra of Colombia told the journalists that Governments had to be challenged because the world’s forests were at crisis level, with some 90 per cent of existing forest cover found in only 24 countries and 70 other countries having low cover forests.Deforestation and forest degradation were major obstacles to development, he said.Dr. Maathai said if the Forum discussed a code of ethics to govern logging, many corporations were likely to accept such a guide for their business practices in developing countries. Developed countries could not protect their forests while taking advantage of countries that had little skill in adding value to their timber, she added.Meanwhile, in the countries that most needed forest rehabilitation, planting was not taking place, she said.The poor in those countries needed education about the services provided to the planet by healthy ecosystems, such as providing oxygen, helping to replenish the underground reservoirs with water when rains fell, as well as acting as reservoirs of genetic resources, some of which had not yet been identified, she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *