International policy on forest

Treaties to protect forests

Forest area after fire clearance

In recent years a large number of regional and global conventions, resolutions and recommendations have been drawn up by international organisations and conferences. Together they constitute the body of international forest law.

Statement of Forest Principles

The Statement of Forest Principles was adopted at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992. Together with the internationally agreed proposals for action and the forest dialogue built on that, it forms the basis of German development cooperation in the forest sector.

United Nations Forum on Forests

The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) was established in the year 2000. In May 2006 it adopted four objectives:

  • Reverse the loss of forest cover worldwide through sustainable forest management;
  • Enhance forest-based economic, social and environmental benefits;
  • Increase significantly the area of sustainably managed forests; and
  • Reverse the decline in official development assistance for sustainable forest management and mobilise significantly increased new and additional financial resources from all sources for the implementation of sustainable forest management.

In April 2007 these four objectives were laid down in a new international Non-legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests. For the first time this sets out a globally valid definition of sustainable forest management that extends well beyond the mere use of timber:

"Sustainable forest management, as a dynamic and evolving concept, aims to maintain and enhance the economic, social and environmental values of all types of forests, for the benefit of present and future generations.”

In 2013 the Forum on Forests published a report on the progress achieved. According to that report, numerous countries have created or improved the legal foundations for the protection and sustainable management of forests, and drawn up national forest programmes.

Convention on Biological Diversity

African forest elephants in the Dzanga National Park in the Central African Republic

Since deforestation is one of the main causes of species loss, in 1998 the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity endorsed a work programme for forest biological diversity. 2002 saw the adoption of an expanded programme of work on forest biological diversity.

Further measures to protect forest biological diversity were agreed at the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties held in Bonn in May 2008. They include the expansion of and increased financing for forest protection areas, the curbing of illegal logging and the appropriate use of genetically modified trees. At this Conference the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, stated that from 2013 onwards Germany would make 500 million euros available annually to support developing countries and newly emerging economies in meeting the objectives of the Convention.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

Seedling on a field in Kenya

Forests can prevent deserts spreading. Reforestation is therefore also used as a means to combat desertification. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which entered into force in 1996, has helped bring about a situation in which most countries have now established clear rules for combating desertification. National Action Programmes have been drawn up that coordinate all projects for combating desertification, and promote civil society involvement.


Loading the player...

REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. It is based on the idea of financially rewarding a country’s government and its population when they can demonstrate that they have avoided deforestation. REDD+ marked a further extension of this approach. As well as forest protection, this approach now also includes other measures that support the role of the forest as a carbon sink, such as improved forest management and targeted reforestation.

To add climate action to forest protection, in late 2010 the 16th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to further develop the so-called REDD mechanism. Since the Paris Climate Change Conference was successfully concluded in 2015, REDD+ has also been an important component of the measures to limit the rise in global temperatures.

Bonn Challenge

In September 2011, the world’s largest forest and landscape restoration initiative was launched at a ministerial meeting in Bonn. The "Bonn Challenge" aims to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030. It is estimated that by reforesting this land it will be possible to absorb around one gigaton of carbon dioxide.

The platform for practitioners is designed to bring together existing international pledges to restore forests, and support their realisation.

The meeting of ministers to launch the Bonn Challenge was organised by the German government together with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration (GPFLR). The initiative is supported by numerous governments, private companies and civil society groups. As of May 2015, specific pledges covering approximately 60 million hectares had already been received from among others the USA, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In March 2015 the follow-on conference Bonn Challenge 2.0 took place. There, participants from Central America, Africa and Southeast Asia announced a series of initiatives and partnerships to restore forests.

New York Declaration on Forests

A herd of cattle seeking out the shade unterneath a tree

At the special UN Climate Summit held in New York in September 2014, the countries taking part endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests. This Declaration aims to halt deforestation by 2030. It also envisages the establishment of "deforestation-free" supply chains for products such as soy, palm oil, paper and beef. Finally, the Declaration also incorporates the Bonn Challenge’s target of restoring 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030.

The New York Declaration was initiated by Germany, the UK and Norway – the three industrialised nations with the strongest commitment to forest protection as a contribution to climate change mitigation in developing countries.

Forests in the 2030 Agenda

In September 2015 the international community adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 15 includes forest protection. Specifically, it aims to halt deforestation worldwide by 2020 and ensure that all forests are managed sustainably. The Agenda envisages the restoration of degraded forests and a significant increase in reforestation. Goal 6 also underlines the importance of forests for water supply. Although forests are not mentioned explicitly in this context they also play a major role in Goal 13, which deals with climate change.

BMZ glossary

Close window


Share page