Future Policy Award crowns world’s best forest policies

Press release

Forest laws and policies in Rwanda, The Gambia and the US beat out 17 other nominees to win 2011 Future Policy Award

New York, 21 September 2011. Rwanda’s National Forest Policy was proclaimed the winner of the 2011 Future Policy Award. The Gambia’s Community Forest Policy and the US Lacey Act with its amendment of 2008 received the Silver Awards. The three winning policies which most effectively contribute to the conservation and sustainable development of forests for the benefit of current and future generations were announced on 21 September 2011 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The announcement will be followed by an awards ceremony at the Central Park Zoo convened by the World Future Council, the Secretariats of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Forest Stewardship Council, and hosted at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“Exemplary policy solutions do exist. The Future Policy Award celebrates the best of them. The aim of the award is to raise global awareness for these policies and speed up policy action. We need visionary policies which support a sustainable and just world and protect future generations,” says Alexandra Wandel, Director of the World Future Council, an international policy research organisation that provides decision-makers with effective policy solutions. The 2011 Future Policy Award shines a spotlight on the success stories and challenges faced by the world’s forests and the people who depend on them.

“Rwanda has sought not only to make its forests a national priority, but has also used them as a platform to revolutionise its stances on women’s rights and creating a healthy environment,” says Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Honorary World Future Councillor and Founder of the Green Belt Movement.

Despite continuing population and land pressures, Rwanda is on course to reach its goal of increasing forest cover to 30% of total land area achieving a major reversal in the trend of declining forest cover. Forest cover has already increased by 37% since 1990. Massive reforestation and planting activities that promoted indigenous species and involved the local population were undertaken, and new measures such as agro-forestry and education about forest management were implemented. Rwanda has also been a pioneer in banning plastic bags: in 2008 a bill was introduced to prohibit the manufacture, import, use and sale of polythene bags in the country.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Honorary World Future Councillor visited Rwanda in February this year together with Goodwill Ambassador Edward Norton and states: “Rwanda is an inspiration for the world. The national policy to heal and restore nature, through a border-to-border restoration programme, will create the basis for a healthy and resilient society of the future. This policy is placing Rwanda firmly on the map as a global environmental leader, and I hope many other countries will follow.”

The first Silver Award went to The Gambia’s Community Forest Policy, which has achieved sustainable forest management and poverty alleviation by handing control of forests to the communities that use them.

Eduardo Rojas Briales, Assistant Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, states: “The success of the Gambia’s Community Forest Policy proves that even in the world’s poorest countries, with the right policies and adequate legislation in place rural populations can benefit economically and significantly improve their food security. In Gambia the innovative policyincluded forest tenure transition from state ownership to management by local communities, which enabled them to reduce illegal logging and benefit from using the forest products. It is vital to acknowledge such achievements and draw the attention of policy-makers around the globe to possible solutions which could be applied in other countries in the future.”

Ecological gains from forest protection include an increase in climate change mitigation through a decrease in desertification, forest fires and illegal logging. The Gambia has managed to buck a strong deforestation trend in Africa with over 350 villages managing twelve percent of the country’s forests, with a net increase in forest cover of 8.5 percent over the last two decades.

The second Silver Award went to the US Lacey Act amendment of 2008 which prohibits all trade in wood and plant products that are knowingly illegally sourced from a US state or any foreign country. “The Lacy Act enforces the environmental law of even the weakest of countries in the most powerful way. If all countries followed its example, environmental law would be globally enforced and our biosphere would be protected,” says jury member Tewolde Berhan Egziabher, Director General, Environmental Protection Authority, Ethiopia and World Future Councillor. The strength of the Act lies in its ability to target and place responsibility on every stage of the timber supply chain. It has forced importers to take responsibility for their wood products and has already produced positive results in increasing due diligence assessments and demand for certified wood products.

Jan McAlpine, Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests, states: “Celebrating innovation to benefit the world’s forests is one of the primary objectives of the International Year of Forests, 2011. This year’s Future Policy Award recognises policies that have succeeded in translating a vision for a sustainable future into tangible action. The UNFF applauds the three winning governments in Rwanda, The Gambia and the US for their extraordinary sustainable forest management policies: incorporating social, environmental and economic actions into a sustainable future for their countries.”

An international jury composed of experts from academia, government, international bodies, civil society and indigenous groups from all five continents had assessed the nominations against the World Future Council’s Seven Principles for Future Just Lawmaking. Honourable mentions were also bestowed upon forest policies from Bhutan, Nepal and Switzerland. In total twenty policies from sixteen countries were nominated for the award.

More on the Future Policy Award 2011 here.

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The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy-making. Its 50 eminent members from around the globe have already successfully promoted change. The Council addresses challenges to our common future and provides decision makers with effective policy solutions. The World Future Council is registered as a charitable foundation in Hamburg, Germany.