NEW YORK - Rwanda’s National Forest Policy, initiated in 2004 and updated in 2010, has won the 2011 Future Policy Award as the world’s most inspiring and innovative forest policy.The announcement was made yesterday by the World Future Council (WFC) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The policy emerged top of the three winning policies which most effectively contribute to the conservation and sustainable development of forests for the benefit of current and future generations.
Announcing the award, Alexandra Wandel, the Director of the World Future Council, an international policy research organisation that provides decision-makers with effective policy solutions, commended Rwanda for its visionary policies.
“Exemplary policy solutions do exist. The Future Policy Award celebrates the best of them. The aim of the award is to raise global awareness for these policies and speed up policy action,” Wandel said.
“We need visionary policies which support a sustainable and just world and protect future generations,” she said
The 2011 Future Policy Award shines a spotlight on the success stories and challenges faced by the world’s forests and the people who depend on them.
The Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi, said that the award only encourages the government to do more.
“Rwanda is delighted and appreciative of being the 2011 Future Policy Award winner. This comes as a very encouraging recognition of our national efforts to be part of the global endeavour to sustainably manage our environment and natural resources, ….including through adequate forestry development policies and actions,” Kamanzi said.
“It is equally a renewed and humbling challenge for each Rwandan to consolidate our achievements and to take that to an even superior level”.
The Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), Dr. Rose Mukankomeje, attributed the award to a number of policies the government has put in place, all aimed at conserving the environment.
“This award recognises our forestry policy but if you look deeply, it also considers other policies the government has put in place including the banning of plastic bags and others, all of which are aimed at conserving the environment,” she said.
Prof. Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Founder of the Green Belt Movement, said that Rwanda had laid out not only impressive polices on the environment, but also women empowerment and health.
“Rwanda has sought not only to make its forests a national priority, but has also used them as a platform to revolutionise its stances on women’s rights and creating a healthy environment,” she said.
The award was based on the fact that despite continuing population and land pressures, Rwanda is on course to reach its goal of increasing forest cover to 30 percent of total land area thus achieving a major reversal in the trend of declining forest cover.
Forest cover has already increased by 37 percent since 1990. Massive reforestation and planting activities that promoted indigenous species and involved the local population were undertaken, and new measures such as agro-forestry and education about forest management were implemented.
Rwanda has also been a pioneer in banning plastic bags: in 2008 a bill was introduced to prohibit the manufacture, import, use and sale of polythene bags in the country.
Ahmed Djoghlaf, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Honorary World Future Councillor who visited Rwanda in February this year, together with Goodwill Ambassador Edward Norton, also hailed the country’s efforts.
“Rwanda is an inspiration for the world. The national policy to heal and restore nature, through a border-to-border restoration program, will create the basis for a healthy and resilient society of the future.
“This policy is placing Rwanda firmly on the map as a global environmental leader, and I hope many other countries will follow suit,” Djoghlaf said.
The first Silver Award went to The Gambia’s Community Forest Policy, which has achieved sustainable forest management and poverty alleviation by handing control of forests to the communities that use them.
Twenty forest policies from 16 countries were nominated for the Future Policy Award by international organisations, including the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) members such as the UNDP and FAO.
Other organisations which nominate include the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as well as the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).