The XV World Forestry Congress wrapped on May 6th in Seoul, South Korea, after four days of presentations and discussion about the state of world forests. Held almost every four years since 1926, and now run by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the Congress is billed as a “forum for inclusive discussion on the key challenges and way forward for the forestry sector” and is one of the largest and most important venues for international discussion about the future of the world’s forests.
A common result of these forums is a collective declaration, and this meeting was no different. In this case, the participants from 141 countries assert that “forests, forestry and forest stakeholders offer major nature-based solutions to climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation, hunger and poverty, but we need to act now – there is no time to lose.” So, there is clearly a global understanding and intent that forests and forestry play a vital role in a sustainable future for the planet.
Now, it is fair to say that this Congress covers far more than the wood value chain and also forests and forestry issues come in many shapes and sizes–through technically the same product (wood) the timber sector can be a far cry from the fuelwood sector—and an international meeting will necessarily be diverse and touch on many topics. But glance through the list of 385 speakers and, charitably, no more than a handful fall in a category resembling the wood value chain, and none specifically to flooring or the tropical timber supply chain.
Surely almost every participant at this meeting would agree that adding value to wood products is a key ingredient to generating economic returns that allow forests and forestry to compete with other land use options. But with only a token nod to wood markets, the organizers structure the Congress along six sub-themes (summarized here as): deforestation and forest degradation; nature-based solutions to climate change; green pathways to growth and sustainability; forests and human health; forest information, data and knowledge; and enhancing management and communication. Remember, this is one of the largest and most important forestry conferences in the world, but yet the tropical wood value chain is largely absent.