Policy brief on forests and COVID-19 released

As countries continue to battle the far-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations today called for the inclusion of sustainable forest-based actions in COVID-19 recovery programmes and policies.

“Historically, forests have served as a safety net in times of crisis,” says Alexander Trepelkov, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat. “This has been particularly true for rural populations, indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities,” he added.

A large proportion of the rural poor, some 40 per cent, live in forest and savannah areas. For these communities, forests are a critical source of food, fuel, income, livelihoods and well-being. Recent estimates indicate that the economic crisis triggered by COVID-19 is likely to push 34.3 million more people into extreme poverty this year. As millions grapple with economic vulnerability and food insecurity, dependence on forests for basic subsistence needs will undoubtedly increase.

In its latest policy brief on forests and COVID-19, published today, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) puts forth that sustainably managed forests can help to lift millions out of poverty, and lay the foundation for resilient economies and societies capable of withstanding future pandemics, climate change and other global challenges.

The forestry sector has a proven track record in employment-generation due to the combination of labor-intensive work and relatively low capital investment requirements. Some countries have started addressing COVID-related unemployment by pledging to create new jobs in afforestation, reforestation and agroforestry.

If current rates of deforestation and forest degradation continue unabated, it could lead to a rise in the occurrences of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 in the future. Healthy, well-managed forests, on the other hand, offer a nature-based solution to the immediate need to address poverty, health and economic recovery, while also providing long-term benefits to tackle water scarcity, climate change and building energy and food security. Further information related to the policy brief is available at:

UN, Department of Economic and Social Affairs Forests, June 15 2020