Did you know that today is United Nations Day? The United Nations Charter entered into force on October 24th, 1947, replacing the League of Nations with an international organization dedicated to facilitating social, economic and environmental development and cooperative efforts. United Nations Day is dedicated to honoring the achievements of the United Nations Organization (UN), which include major milestones in efforts to protect and restore our environment.

Since its formation in 1947, the UN has developed branches dedicated to environmental work. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is known for its annual conference on sustainable development (known as UNCED or Earth Summit), the most recent being Rio+20 this past summer. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) set global climate change goals in the 1990s through the Kyoto Protocol, which established binding targets for countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Haitian students plant trees to restore a forest on International Environment Day, which is run by UNEP. Credit: United Nations Photo/Flickr

More recently, in 2000, the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) was established to develop policies and provide guidelines for “the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end.” The UNFF holds an annual conference that serves as a forum for discussing international forest policy. It also gives countries the opportunity to share their developments, experiences and lessons learned on forest management. In 2006, during the seventh session of the UNFF, a multi-year strategy (2007-2015) was developed to provide guidance on the use of sustainable forest management practices. The objective of the strategy is to reforest areas that have gone through deforestation, prevent future forest degradation and better the livelihoods of people who depend on forests. The next session of the UNFF is set to take place April 8-19, 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey.

As our world seems to become smaller and smaller through faster online communication and a continually growing global economy, I think it’s encouraging that environmental policy is following in those same footsteps. International forums like the UNFF provide a space for forest policy experts to share with and learn from each other in ways that continue to benefit forests worldwide.