Yep, believe it or not 2011 is the UN's International Year of Forests. Not that anybody's told Caroline Spelman and her bosses.
Have just a scan-read of the IYOF website and you'll find that "The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests". Their tagline is "Celebrating Forests for People".
Delve a little deeper and you'll find the 2010 Report of the Secretary-General on Preparations for Forests 2011, a Report of the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. It's a long document that I don't expect you'll go out of your way to read, so I've pulled a few choice tit-bits for you:
"The International Year of Forests, 2011 offers a unique opportunity to raise public awareness of the challenges facing many of the world’s forests and the people who depend on them. Great success stories and valuable lessons on how to promote sustainable forest management already exist. The Year provides a means of bringing those voices together and building momentum towards greater public participation in forest activities around the world."
"Forest spokespersons or messengers: The secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests is currently identifying individuals who can use their leadership or celebrity status to generate media attention and help to raise awareness and support for forests. These ambassadors-at-large are being sought from around the world and would be invited to travel to public events to promote the International Year of Forests, 2011 and mobilize action for forests."
There are some recommendations:
"Further encourage Member States to promote awareness of challenges and success stories related to implementing sustainable forest management at the national level."
"Promote observance of the Year not as an isolated event but as part of a continuing process of advocacy and partnership to foster greater awareness and action towards sustainable forest management at all levels."
There are even some dates for your diary:
The European Union Forest Directors-General meeting is expected to be held in Poland in November 2011
The European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR) plans to organize its twelfth meeting in 2011
The Sixth Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe will be convened in Oslo from 14 to 16 June 2011. High on the agenda will be the elaboration of a strengthened policy framework for sustainable forest management throughout Europe.
All this does make me think that our Government is lost in the woods. Seeing how it's stance is so at odds with the IYOF credo, I'm beginning to think that even our membership of the UN might be considered superfluous by our leaders.
There's still time to take action to stop the madness here - sign the petition and badger your MP.