Korea, ASEAN join forces to make Asia greener
Korea, ASEAN join forces to
make Asia greener
-Ministers adopt statement vowing to step up forest cooperation, support AFoCO
Forestry ministers of the Republic of Korea and the 10 ASEAN Member States adopted a joint statement on August 30 pledging to promote regional green growth and unite behind the prospective launch of a first-ever Asian forest organization.
The Ministerial Statement, issued at the Special ASEAN-ROK Ministerial Meeting on Forestry in Seoul, vows full-out efforts to duly establish the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO), which will be the first-ever international body dedicated to forestry in Asia.
"The 10 ASEAN Member States, with 40 percent of the total forest area and 40 percent of biological species of Asia, are the key players in global efforts to conserve biological diversity and mitigate global warming," Lee Don-koo, minister of the Korea Forest Service that hosted the two-day meeting, said.
"This forestry meeting and the launch of the AFoCO will be stepping stones into increased forest cooperation across Asia."
Host Korea pledged to expand its official development assistance (ODA) programs for ASEAN Member States and pool its expertise on low-carbon, green-growth technology.
In particular, Korea and the ASEAN Member States vowed in the statement to "strengthen cooperation in action-oriented field activities" and promote "capacity building and livelihood of forest-dependent communities in the context of Sustainable Forest Management, forest conservation and addressing the adverse impact of Climate Change."
The Special Ministerial Meeting took place to commemorate the entry of force of the Agreement on ASEAN-ROK Forestry Cooperation on August 5, a legal platform to facilitate dialogue towards establishing the AFoCO within two years.
Lester R. Brown, a renowned U.S. environmental analyst and president of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, commended Korea's efforts to spearhead the Asian initiative.
"I’'m confident the Republic of Korea is well-prepared to take the initiative," Brown, who praised Korea's reforestation following the Korean War in his book, "Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization," said in his written congratulatory message to the meeting.
The ASEAN region is home to about 20 percent of the total forest area on the planet, but poverty and the need for economic development have driven many developing ASEAN nations to be dependent on trees and forest resources, causing rapid deforestation and land degradation in large swaths of the region.
The Korean government took the initiative in creating the AFoCO when President Lee Myung-bak proposed the notion during the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit in Jeju Island in June 2009. After a series of high-level dialogues, the Agreement on Forestry Cooperation was signed on the sidelines of the 14th ASEAN-ROK Summit in Bali, Indonesia in November 2011, giving official approval to the launching of the AFoCO.
A Secretariat office will open in Seoul in early September, and the Governing Council, a decision-making body for the AFoCO, is expected to elect its first Executive Director in the coming weeks.