Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet

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We are extremely fortunate to count on the presence of an endless diversity of wild animals, plants, and other lifeforms that together make up life on our planet.

Humans around the world benefit every single day from wildlife. In many ways, our history is the story of our species’ interaction with, and adaptation to, the diverse lifeforms present in our close vicinity. Since time immemorial, we have used wild plants and animals for out most basic needs: from the air we breathe, to the food we eat, to the materials we use for shelter and comfort.

The human well-being and prosperity that is derived from the direct exploitation of wildlife, habitats and ecosystems should not be to the detriment of the building blocks of a rich and diverse biosphere. The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) was agreed in 1973 to avoid this by regulating international trade in wildlife and ensure that this trade is legal, sustainable and traceable.

More and more, however, the unsustainable exploitation of wild fauna and flora and their ecosystems is threatening their survival. Every single piece of the puzzle of life is essential and losing even the smallest of these pieces leaves us, and the entire planet, poorer. When human actions endanger hundreds of thousands of species, as they are doing today, it is the entire biosphere - of which we too are a part - that is threatened.

We now face the immense challenge of living in harmony with nature so that we can fulfill our own needs without neglecting those of the many lifeforms with which we share this planet on sea, land and air.

The inclusion of endangered species in the CITES Appendices, the conservation efforts undertaken by our Parties, and the added endeavors of partners in other Conventions or organizations working on biodiversity and development helps to counteract the loss of biodiversity on the planet.

However, transformative changes are needed as we find ourselves at a critical turning point both for our species and for the entire biosphere. Now more than ever we must come together in a joint effort to sustain all life on Earth.

We are proud to do our part in advocating for a responsible and sustainable use of wildlife to conserve our world’s biodiversity. CITES is proud to host this year’s World Wildlife Day with the theme "Sustaining all life on Earth", and we invite all of the planet’s citizens to join us in the celebration of one of the milestones of this “Biodiversity Super Year”.





On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 3 March – the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973 – as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.

The UNGA resolution also designated the CITES Secretariat as the facilitator for the global observance of this special day for wildlife on the UN calendar. World Wildlife Day has now become the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife.

World Wildlife Day will be celebrated in 2021 under the theme "Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet", as a way to highlight the central role of forests, forest species and ecosystems services in sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people globally, and particularly of Indigenous and local communities with historic ties to forested and forest-adjacent areas. This aligns with UN Sustainable Development Goals 1, 12, 13 and 15, and their wide-ranging commitments to alleviating poverty, ensuring sustainable use of resources, and on conserving life land.

Between 200 and 350 million people live within or adjacent to forested areas around the world, relying on the various ecosystem services provided by forest and forest species for their livelihoods and to cover their most basic needs, including food, shelter, energy and medicines.

Indigenous peoples and local communities are at the forefront of the symbiotic relationship between humans and forest, forest-dwelling wildlife species and the ecosystem services the provide. Roughly 28% of the world’s land surface is currently managed by indigenous peoples, including some of the most ecologically intact forests on the planet. These spaces are not only central to their economic and personal well-being, but also to their cultural identities.

Forests, forests species and the livelihoods that depend on them currently find themselves at the crossroads of the multiple planetary crises we currently face, from climate change, to biodiversity loss and the health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 3 2021, World Wildlife Day will celebrate forest-based livelihoods and seek to promote forest and forest wildlife management models and practices that accommodate both human well-being and the long-term conservation of forests, forest-dwelling species of wild fauna and flora and the ecosystems they sustain, and promote the value of traditional practices and knowledge that contribute to establishing a more sustainable relationship with these crucial natural systems.



World Wildlife Day 2021 Virtual Global Event: World Wildlife Day is usually celebrated with a high-level event at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our 2021 celebration will be entirely virtual: we will be holding an online event, bringing together representatives of UN member States, UN System organizations and multilateral environmental agreements, civil society, and the private sector for a series of discussions along the theme of "Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet".

The preliminary agenda for the 2021 virtual event can be found here. This virtual event will be broadcasted live to the public – details on how to connect to the event will be made available here shortly.

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