It is with great pleasure that the African Forest Forum brings you this special edition of our October 2015 newsletter. This newsletter has a strong focus on the XIV World Forestry Congress, held for the first time on the African continent, from 7-11 September 2015 in Durban, South Africa. It also gives some highlights from a Pre-XIV World Forestry Congress workshop on the theme “Forests, people and environment: Some perspectives from Africa” that was organized by AFF, in collaboration with African Union Commission, the Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa, the Centre for Sustainable Development- University of Ibadan and the Forest Research Network of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Congress, whose theme was “Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future”, was attended by nearly 4000 delegates from 142 countries, offered a good platform to discuss better ways for managing and protecting the world’s forests for the sake of humanity and the environment we all live in. With an ambitious agenda to among other things, explore the niche of forests and forestry in the 2030 Agenda on sustainable development, delegates at the Congress offered a vision for forests and forestry as a way of contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for a sustainable future to 2050 and beyond.
The Congress outcome, the ‘Durban Declaration’, offers a set of four key recommendations that see forests playing a decisive role in food and livelihood security as well as the fight against climate change. It calls for ways for improving policies and practices that promote integrated approaches to land use and addressing the causes of deforestation. The declaration also highlights the need for further investment in forest education, communication, research and the creation of jobs – especially for the youth. New partnerships among the forest, agriculture, finance, energy, water and other sectors, as well as strong engagement with indigenous peoples  and local communities are equally stressed in the declaration.
As we look ahead to the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris, we are encouraged by the outcome of the Congress as well as the maturity of the dialogue. It is clear from the collective ideas and experience of the global forestry community that the next six years will hold promising pathways towards unlocking the true potential of forests in sustainable development. Our challenge is to now ensure that these strategies are turned into concrete actions.
This newsletter highlights some of the key messages and insights from participants to the Pre-XIV World Forestry Congress workshop, organized by AFF and partners, in support of the Durban Declaration and of whom were honored to share, network and participate in this unique experience. We wish to thank the Government and people of South Africa for hosting and various forms of support to the pre- XIV WFC workshop in Durban. In the same vein, we wish to thank the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). We also gratefully acknowledge the generous assistance accorded unto us by the Conference Secretariat in making our pre-event a success.
Godwin Kowero – Executive Secretary, African Forest Forum