Statement by President von der Leyen on the occasion of the signature of Forest Partnerships with Congo, Guyana, Mongolia, Zambia and Uganda

Fellow leaders, Excellencies,

It is a pleasure to have you here. What a special moment. We are all gathered here because we share the same ambition: to save our forests. We have been losing ten million hectares of forests per year – that is the size of Iceland, every single year. We know that our forests are in danger. And that means that if our forests – our green lungs – are in danger, we are in danger, too. Only healthy forests can store carbon so they can help us fight climate change. Only healthy forests can provide the resources that round about 1.6 billion people currently need, that rely on the existence of the forests. But what we also do know is that deforestation is man-made. So if we are the ones triggering deforestation, we can do something about it.

And therefore, today, fellow leaders, Excellencies, I am very glad to launch the first five Forest Partnerships with Guyana, Mongolia, the Republic of Congo, Zambia and Uganda. You all are – and I know that by experience and through our conversations – deeply committed to protecting your beautiful forests. And I am glad that we, as the European Union, can support you in this ambition. These Forest Partnerships are local preservation strategies adapted to the very unique needs that all of you and your forests have, and to the needs of your communities – I really want to stress that point. Because there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every local community is different and they have specific needs and we have to respect that. And this is included in our Forest Partnerships. Let me stress three main objectives that we have in common.

The first one is that we need to develop strategies for the sustainable development and management of forests. Management of forests, yes, we know how to do this. But we want a sustainable management of forests. It includes of course land restoration so that these forests can be restored and can be our best allies in the fight against climate change. And of course, this will also contribute to our European goal to ensure that 40 million hectares of forests are sustainably managed by 2027. That is our goal; that is what we are working for. And here is a big milestone that we achieve.

Secondly – and we have discussed that – it is so important that we create jobs around the forest value chains. Jobs in the sustainable management of forests. We are convinced that with these Forest Partnerships we can create around one million jobs in the forest sector until 2027 – actually our goal is to create half of the jobs for women to preserve our forests.

And the third point is very important, we want to facilitate trade in wood products between us so that this is a win-win situation for all of us. Because Europe is turning to more sustainably sourced and quality wood products to reach the objectives of our European Green Deal. So our demand for sustainably managed wood products will only grow. And that is where you are the specialists and where you will become the main source. Because if we agree on sustainable management of forests, what we are looking for are the sustainable products resulting from it. And therefore it is a win-win situation for both sides.

All of this requires significant investments. And we are willing to invest EUR 450 million until 2024, so in the short term to make this happen. This is a part of our bigger global engagement with Global Gateway. An investment programme that invests EUR 7 billion in biodiversity until 2027. A large share of that is devoted to the forests. And if you speak about biodiversity and preserving the biodiversity of our planet, one of our main objectives is to really have a look at our green lungs, our forests.


Many thanks for the signature of our Forest Partnerships. This is not the end of something, this is the beginning of something. So good luck on that and many thanks for being here.