BWI Statement for International Day of Forests

The Building and Wood Workers International and its millions of forest and wood worker members join Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in celebrating the International Day of Forests. This year’s focus on Forests and Water is particularly important since in too many places around the world, the connection between forest and water has been lost.

Since forest management is rarely rewarded for promoting water management and water management is almost never rewarded for promoting sustainable forest management, decision makers in both endeavors tend to take actions that are not in either of their best interests.

The economic value of water is increasing. The economic value of sustainably managed forests tends not to be. Thus there is a growing gap between how the market allocates benefits and costs among these key natural resources.

Forests have traditionally been undervalued by markets. This undervaluation is a major driver for the incredible numbers of informal jobs in the forest sector. The ratio of informal work to formal work in the forest and forest products sector is perhaps the highest in the world. This in turn results in unsafe, low wage work. The absence of decent work in the forest products sector is itself a contributing factor to rural poverty in many tropical countries and rural communities in the global north.

The BWI is committed to work with FAO to help educate all policy makers, both public and private, that without decent work in forestry, without fair valuation for the economic, social, and cultural contributions of forests, forests will not survive. To promote sustainable forestry and sustainable water management requires elevating the role of workers and forest dependent populations in the global debate on poverty reduction, climate change, and decent work.

Forest workers and their representatives must be the first to be invited into the debate and not the last. Our members do the work, our members suffer the costs and our members bear the burden of unsustainable management of forests, water, and climate. Until our voices are heard the failed policies of the past decades will continue.

By inviting workers into the decision making-process in rural communities, local and national government, and throughout the UN system, new opportunities will arise along with new ideas. The BWI has presented a detailed climate change analysis that lists numbers proposals and solutions. BWI stands ready to cooperate and facilitate any national or international process seeking real solutions to promote sustainable forest and water management.

BWI's document "Towards A Framework to Combat Climate Change in the Construction, Building Materials, Forestry and Wood Sectors: A worker’s perspective" can be downloaded here.