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INTERNATIONAL EXPERTS DISCUSS OPTIONS FOR COMBATING ILLEGAL FOREST PRACTICES

FAO Press Release 02/02


For further information, please contact:

The FAO Media Office

Tel: (39-06) 5705 3625

Fax: (39-06) 570-53699/55924

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Rome, 21 January. - Ways and means of combating illegal forest practices were the main theme of discussions among international experts who met at the Rome headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) last week to consider policy options for improving compliance with the law in the forestry sector.

According to Dr. Hosny El Lakany, FAO's Assistant Director-General, Forestry Department, "The global goal of managing forests in ways that are compatible with their capacity to renew themselves and sustain their flow of goods and services is increasingly threatened by the widespread occurrence of a variety of illegal acts."

Some 30 international experts identified a long list of forest crimes, ranging from corrupt allocation of timber concessions to illegal worldwide processing and trade of forest products.

The participants included experts from the World Bank and the International Tropical Timber Organization; leading NGOs involved in promoting sustainable forestry worldwide and combating illegal activities, such as Global Witness, Environmental Investigation Agency, Fern, Forest Integrity Network/Transparency International, Greenpeace, and World Wildlife Fund; the World Resources Institute and Forest Trends; and the private-sector forest industry. The meeting was the first in which such spectrum of experts from governmental, non-governmental and private sector has informally come together to discuss the impact and possible ways to control forest crime.

The FAO State of the World's Forests (SOFO) 2001 drew attention to the widespread nature of forest crime throughout the globe. Dr. El Lakany said in his opening address: "In many countries most of forest harvesting is illegal and contributing to a large proportion of industrial production and trade. This not only jeopardises the sustainability of forest resources but causes great environmental distress and hurts the poor the most. With illegal acts and corruption depriving governments of needed revenues, the phenomenon often evolves into a self-feeding vicious circle of waste and forest destruction."

Over the three-day meeting, the participants analysed policy alternatives that offer the greatest chance of success in combating illegal forestry practices and explored the roles of different actors in promoting their implementation.

They considered the linkages between consumer and producer countries and concluded that the responsibility for illegal activities does not reside exclusively with producing countries. The experts also concluded that various international initiatives, including log-tracking technologies, could make a tangible contribution to the objective of fighting forest crime - particularly if they could be harmonised in commonly agreed schemes involving a number of key committed parties. Bilateral and regional schemes may prove more successful in the short term, building up towards a future global arrangement in the long term.

Finally, the experts emphasized the importance of transparency and heightened efforts to disseminate information and increase involvement of civil society against illegal forest practices in order to to generate support for the difficult policy reforms that may be needed.

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For further information please contact Mr. Manuel Paveri, Forest Policy and Institutions Branch, Forest Policy and Planning Division, FAO, tel: 39 06 5705 2196.


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