The Korea Forest Service rolled up its sleeves to bring the 15th World Forestry Congress (WFC) to be held in 2021 to Korea. Kim Yong-ha, vice director of the Korea Forest Service (KFS) had a high-ranking meeting with Zhang Jianlong, Administrator of State Forestry Administration of China one day before the “World Day to Combat Desertification” on June 16. In the meeting, Kim asked Zhang for support for Korea’s hosting the WFC. On June 17, Kim appealed to the environmental ministers and vice ministers of Argentina, Namibia, Niger, Turkey and Mongolia who flew into China to join the event of the World Day to Combat Desertification.
In the meantime, the KFS handed in an application to host the event to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO) in April. The forestry minister is planning to make a presentation on Korea’s will to host the WFC at a Committee on Forest (COFO) meeting of the UNFAO to be held in Rome, Italy this July. The KFS has been travelling around the world appealing to other nations in addition to China in order to catch the ticket to host the WFC. At a meeting of the Asia Pacific Forest Committee held in the Philippines in February, the KFS had meetings with the delegation of each country and ran a PR booth and sent letters that asked member countries to support for the KFS.
The WFC is the most influential international conference managed by the UNFAO in the forest sector. Serving as a consultative body between the academia and government units, the WFC offers opportunities to feed the results of new research and policy evaluation to into future policies, and makes efforts to solve international environmental problems such as responding to climate change, combating desertification and promoting bio diversity.
At the WFC, participants exchange opinions on local and global forest issues, confirm trends and policies about forests and forestry, select and present high-quality papers, and announce recommendations and declarations about key issues in the forest sector. During the 13th WFC held in 2009, participants delivered a message about the importance of forests in carbon reduction and curbing climate change to the Framework Convention on Climatic Change.
The WFC was held twice in the Asia Pacific region –- in India in 1954 and Indonesia in 1978. Since then, the event has not been held in the Asian region. The KFS believes that the hosting cycle tells that the next WFC is highly likely to be held in the Asia Pacific region. Since the 2000s, Korea has paid attention to the event. In 2009, North Gyeongsang Province and Gangwon Province suggested that they catch the ticket to host the 14th WFC. But the ticket landed in the hands of Durban, South Africa.
The following are the reasons why the KFS began to make the trial to bring the event to Korea. In the past, Korea successfully restored denudated mountains and forests by way of the first and second forestation projects and the New Village (Saemaeul) Movement. So, Korea can transfer knowledge about Korea’s experience to developing countries interested in restoring their forests. In addition, by hosting the WFC, Korea will be able to raise the international community’s awareness of a unique natural environment subject to the civilian access control owing to the division of the Korean Peninsular, including the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and restricted areas set by the military. At the same time, Korea can secure an opportunity to promote North Korea’s opening of the related areas. restricted areaIn addition, the event will serve as a good occasion to share policies on such as forest recreation, healing in woods and the formation of urban forests while showing the WFC member countries that people enjoy forest welfare services according to the stages of their life cycles such as prenatal education, kindergarten in woods and woodland burial.
The year of 2021 will see the start of the New Climate System of the Framework Convention on Climatic Change and the completion of the Aichi Target (2011-2020) of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The KFS believes that it can suggest a vision about how forests can be utilized for the new system and goal under the environmental fact. In addition, Korea’s multilateral contribution in the forest sector will be primarily competed in the year, which makes it timely and appropriate for Korea to host the WFS to discuss the contribution’s outcomes, matters to be improved and future directions.
The 15th WFC is scheduled to be held for one week in the second half of 2021. COEX in Seoul is tentatively selected as its venue in case Korea succeeds in hosting the event. About 10,000 people from about 160 countries in the world will take part in the event. Its budget is expected to reach about 25 billion won (US$21.7 million). Its highlights are the plenary meeting, subthemes sessions, high level segments, press conferences, side events and exhibition
Up to now, three nations have applied for the event at the UNFAO. The three are Korea, Italy and Peru. The attraction proposals will be presented at the 23rd COFO meeting of the UNFAO this July. The applying nations are expected to compete fiercely to attract the event via ten-minute presentations. Among 138 member countries, 14 nations currently support Korea’s bid to host the event.
The final results and the host nation will be made public at the 155th FAO Board Meeting that will be held from December 5 to 8 in 2016. The committee member countries total 49, will hear the presentations by the applying nations, go to polls and select the final host nation. At present, among the 49 council members, nine expressed their support for Korea.
Recently, Shin Won-seop, Minister of the KFS, asked his South African counterpart to give support to Korea during his visit to South Africa. Shin also invited foreign diplomats to the Korea National Arboretum, made clear Korea’s will to host the event and appealed to them for their support. Korea will open a PR booth at the 23rd COFO meeting that will be held in Rome, Italy from July 18 to 22.
The WFC was initiated by the International Agricultural Organization (ILA). But at the third WFC meeting, the FAO obtained the right to the WFC and since then, has managed the selection of hosting countries, taking charge of jointly sponsoring the event. The FAO founded in 1943 is the oldest and largest among UN organizations. The FAO runs various programs to resolve humanity’s food problems, improve nutrition and reduce rural poverty in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Asian Rural Development Organization (AARDO).
The FAO manages food safety and standards on production of agricultural and livestock products by establishing the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CODEX) in 1963 by partnering with the WHO. The FAO has been making efforts to eradicate hunger, including the Freedom from Hunger campaign in 1960 and the World Food Summit in 1996, 2002 and 2009. The organization has been playing key roles such as to provide food and transfer agricultural technology to nations suffering from a lack of food in concert with the WFP in order to slash starving population which numbers over one billion.
“Italy and Peru have already submitted applications to the Secretariat of the UNFAO to catch the ticket to host the 15th WFC, giving rise to a fierce three-runner race,” said Kim Yong-ha. “The Korea Forest Service will make all-out efforts to form a common bond with member nations and get support from them for Korea’s bid to host the event by dispatching officials in the remaining period.”