The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/67/200 of 21 December 2012, which declared that starting in 2013, 21 March of each year was to be observed as the International Day of Forests and the Tree.
The resolution encourages all Member States to organize activities relating to all types of forests, and trees outside forests, such as tree-planting campaigns.
Forests cover one third of the Earth's land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people - including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures - depend on forests for their livelihood.
Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than half of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Forests also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent populations.
They play a key role in our battle against climate change. Forests contribute to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the air.
Three-fourths of freshwater comes from forested catchment areas. Forests stabilize slopes and prevent landslides; they protect coastal communities against tsunamis and storms. More than 3 billion people use wood for fuel; some 2 billion people depend on forests for sustenance and income, and 750 million live within them.
Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, we are destroying the very forests we need to survive. Global deforestation continues at an alarming rate - 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
By proclaiming the International Day of Forests and the Tree, the United Nations has created a new platform to raise awareness about the importance of all types of forest ecosystems to sustainable development.