SummaryForests are a renewable resource and wood is a valuable and sustainably useable product that contributes to national economies. This value from the forests can be realised in harmony with the functions of forests in the global carbon cycle and as long-term carbon repositories as well as providing other environmental values. This important understanding is missed or ignored in many global forestry forums. After more than two decades of so-called ‘pro-poor’ forestry policies backed by large amounts of research preferentially targeted to advance non-timber forest products and payment for ecosystem services including Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, it is difficult to find evidence to back any contention that in any tropical region they have advanced the economic status of forest-dependent or rural communities enabling them to come out of poverty in an enduring way. It is argued here that the sustainable management of native and planted forests, including wood production and processing in rural regions, and greater use of wood products by all of us, can play a much greater role than has been recognised so far for dealing with two major interrelated global challenges. These are poverty reduction in rural forest landscapes, notably in the subtropics and tropics, and to make modest contributions to climate change mitigation globally, especially by recognising the roles of both forests and wood products in the carbon cycle. It is time for a revised narration in the global agenda to raise the potential role of forests as a sustainably manageable resource, free from overzealous calls for forest conservation, but with a more balanced and holistic recognition of the contributions that forests, forestry and the wood-products sector can make to economic and social development. This should be brought effectively into the deliberations of the forthcoming UN Sustainable Development Goals. This would require efforts by the UN and other bodies to bring the private and public sectors into symbiotic partnerships, not as opposing forces as has often been the case.

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