May 3, 2017  By Jewish National Fund  Category: Environment,

Hear what KKL-JNF's forestry rep Johannes Guagnin told the UN

Guagnin with KKL-JNF's chief Israel emissary at the United Nations this week. 

Johannes Guagnin, 
coordinator of research and foreign relations in the forestry department of KKL-JNF, delivered the following remarks at the United Nation's Forum on Forests this week.  

At the outset, I would like to thank the chair and the members of the bureau for their leadership and for convening this session, as well as the secretariat for their invaluable work in preparation for and during this session of UNFF. 

This week, the State of Israel celebrates its 69th Independence Day. It is therefore truly fitting that as we celebrate the birth of our country, we are also here to discuss the future of forests, which give life to our planet and livelihood to so many of its inhabitants.

The United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030 offers a solid framework to address and integrate the role of forests in policies and strategies towards greener, low carbon economies. Forests are crucial to ensure food security and nutrition, improved livelihoods and poverty eradication—and working together on these common challenges would significantly improve our efforts.

Taking proper care of our forests and sharing their benefits in an equal and just manner is crucial in our efforts to build a healthier and more prosperous planet. A planet which we recently pledged to protect in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations. 

The State of Israel takes great pride in its forests. As a small state with very limited natural resources and a low average rainfall, Israel faces challenges that greatly affect our forests, such as soil erosion and desertification. 

Johannes Guagnin represents JNF at the UN
Addressing the crowd. 
Since the establishment of the State of Israel, KKL-JNF, Israel’s official afforestation administration, has planted more than 240 million trees covering over 250,000 acres of land, and introduced important regulations to control grazing and ensure effective water management. Due to these efforts, Israel was able to sustainably address these challenges, and has been one of the only countries to enter the 21st century with a net gain in the number of trees. 

The State of Israel has always recognized the value of well-managed forests -- and over the years, we have become a laboratory for innovative forestry. As a result of both academic and field research, Israel has accumulated extensive knowledge and experience in the field of forestry and ecosystems. Israel has developed advanced practical methods for combating desertification, implementing afforestation in semi-arid regions, and ecological services of forests for the benefit of community and economic development in the country. Through active policies of afforestation, rehabilitation and sustainable forest management, Israel turned its barren lands into flourishing forests that are open for all to enjoy.

Israeli forests are multifunctional, providing multiple benefits and services to surrounding communities and ecological systems. Our forests offer recreation areas and eco-tourism opportunities, and serve as the much needed "green lungs" of a densely populated country. 

Our forests also play an important role in the economic development and poverty reduction in peripheral areas. Forest land is used for animal grazing among the rural villagers of Israel.

Johannes Guagnin representing Israel at the United Nations

Forests also provide employment opportunities across socio-economic sectors— in ecotourism, forest maintenance and upkeep. . In low economic sectors and peripheral communities, forest maintenance and upkeep provide vital jobs and often provide the primary means of income for entire families.  Ecotourism is becoming more and more popular in Israel—and many residents benefit financially by providing accommodations and organizing nature activities.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to forests in the world today. Countries that never experienced desertification before are starting to feel its impact. Israel has developed techniques to manage forests in the context of climate change, and we have been sharing our expertise and conducting technical capacity building programs. 

MASHAV, Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation, has been working with many countries across the world to share Israel’s know-how in agriculture, forestry and food security in the face of climate change. KKL-JNF also works to share its expertise in combating desertification, integrated pest management, and afforestation and watershed management, with many countries. 

Israel recognizes that the challenge of climate change cannot be addressed by any single country. Only knowledge-sharing and cooperation will pave the path towards a sustainable future. In this important forum, I would like to emphasize the importance of Mediterranean cooperation, in order to further the understanding of the effects of climate change on the forests of our region. 

Since its establishment, the State of Israel has been deeply committed to ensuring the survival and development of our forests and making it accessible for the future generations. Today, thanks to the tireless efforts of the United Nations Forum on Forests, NGOs, governments, and concerned citizens around the world, we are on the right path towards realizing a sustainable future for our forests. 

Thank you Mr. Chairman. 

Johannes Guagnin was born in February 1980 in Tübingen, Germany. After completing his BA in forestry he immigrated to Israel in 2009. In 2012, he completed his master's degree in desert studies at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and immediately began working for KKL-JNF. Johannes is married to Shira and the father of five children. As part of his work, Johannes guides international delegations to Israel and represented KKL-JNF at the United Nations Climate Conference 2015 in Paris.