The issue of illegal logging and timber trade has become increasingly prominent in the international policy agenda. Several processes, conventions, bilateral and multilateral agreements, internationally and regionally driven, are addressing forest law enforcement, governance and associated trade in the forest sector. The 2002 Johannesburg Plan of Implementation includes a commitment to "take immediate action on domestic forest law enforcement and illegal international trade in forest products, including in forest biological resources, with the support of the international community, and to provide human and institutional capacity building related to the enforcement of national legislation in those areas". Below is a short overview of the most relevant processes and international organizations.
CITES is a legally binding treaty, with 166 signatories by December 2004. CITES provides different levels of protection for species listed in its three appendixes. Parties are required to report progress on implementation every two years and to report penalties used for trade in violation with the Convention. Parties are also requested to keep records of all transactions involving protected species and to make those reports available to the Convention Secretariat.
CITES is the only worldwide mechanism that can be used to control international trade of illegally sourced wood. The Convention has contributed to curbing and even stopping the illegal trade of certain species. It only covers species that are either already threatened or expected to be endangered in the near future, and it focuses exclusively on international trade. Although CITES lacks a comprehensive enforcement mechanism, it has increased the visibility of endangered species trade, putting pressure on governments to address the issue. Italy, for example, has substantially tightened controls and inspections over the last few years. A practical kit to facilitate the identification of species, a perennial problem plaguing inspections, is also under preparation (Pettenella and Santi, 2004).
In 2002, the Convention on Biological Diversity's Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP 6) approved an Expanded Work Programme on forest biological diversity, including studies to assess the effects of unauthorized forest harvesting on fauna and flora, on indigenous communities and on government revenue.
The relationship between forest product consumption in importing countries and unauthorized harvesting activities in producing countries was discussed during COP 6. Other issues included the definitions of illegal activities, capacity building for effective forest law enforcement, codes of conduct, and product tracking systems.
T he World Bank, the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States, and other partners have organized a series of regional Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) processes. The FLEG processes aim at improving governance in the forest sector and fostering international dialogue and cooperation to fight illegal logging and trade between wood producer and consumer countries. They also encourage neighbouring countries to improve linkages and harmonize regulations. FLEG has been widely recognized for mobilizing political commitment to undertake remedial actions in the countries participating in the process.
FLEG Southeast Asia. In 2001, Ministers from East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America issued the Bali Declaration with pledges to fight forest crime by strengthening bilateral, regional and multilateral collaboration. The Bali Declaration broke the traditional reticence to discuss the problems of illegal logging and trade. The programme of regional and national activities represents an innovative, comprehensive and integrated effort to tackle illegal logging and trade practices. In 2002, a Regional Task Force and Advisory Group proceeded to analyse concrete ways to give operational meaning to the Declaration.
Other regional FLEG initiatives. Similar initiatives are now under way in Africa and are planned for Latin America, Europe and the Russian Federation. The Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance project aims at galvanizing key actors' commitment as well as enabling policy, legal and institutional conditions to foster better forest law compliance. A Ministerial Meeting took place in Yaoundé, Cameroon in 2003. A Ministerial Conference on Europe and North Asia Forest Law Enforcement and Governance is being planned by the Government of the Russian Federation for late 2005.
In 2003, the European Commission issued the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. The Plan was approved by member countries later in the same year and represents one of the most comprehensive international initiatives to date aiming to exclude illegal timber from international markets. It focuses on establishing voluntary timber licensing systems which are designed to identify legality of production and rely on credible (probably independent) verification of legal behaviour at every stage of the chain of custody of the timber. The EU will also support steps to restrict investments in activities that may induce illegalities and the use of illegally sourced forest funds to finance armed conflicts.
The Plan also recommends that all donors highlight the importance of community-based forest management, land tenure and access to forest resources. It exhorts EU member states to adopt policies to exclude illegally sourced wood from public procurement. The Commission plans to investigate ways to integrate combating illegal logging activities into the money laundering legislation.
The EU system will be built up through a series of bilateral agreements with major timber-producing and exporting partner countries. Its impact will depend on the ability of the Commission to establish partnership agreements with a substantial number of producing exporting countries and thus avoid the diversion of illegal timber exported through third countries. A benefit to exporting countries entering the licensing system is that it would give them an advantage in relation to public and private procurement policies, since any imports to the EU from those countries would by definition be legal. A draft regulation to implement the licensing scheme and empower EU customs agencies to prevent entry of unlicensed timber products in the European Union was published in July 2004 and is currently under discussion within the EU Council (Brack, 2005).
In March 2005, over 70 timber companies and their federations, such as the United Kingdom Timber Trade Federation, the Dutch Timber Trade Federation, B&Q and IKEA issued a joint statement calling on the Commission to develop legislation outlawing illegal timber. The Commission promised to look into all the arguments carefully while implying that technical and political factors make it impossible to solve the problem through legislation alone (FERN, 2005).
The 1997 G8 Summit established an Action Programme on Forests to accelerate the implementation of the proposals for action of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF). One of the Programme's five areas of action was the control of illegal logging including assessment of the nature and extent of international trade in illegally harvested timber and measures to improve market transparency.
Although the final report of the G8 Programme was issued in 2002, subsequent G8 meetings have shown continued commitment to addressing the issue of illegal logging and trade. The 2003 G8 Evian Declaration contains a statement committing G8 members to assist countries in the adoption of modern technologies, such as satellite imaging, to help combat illegal logging. The final statement from the G8 Environment and Development Ministerial Meeting, which took place in March 2005, also includes several action points related to illegal logging, including steps to halt the import of illegally logged timber and to encourage public timber procurement policies that favour legal timber. Ministers also requested an expert meeting in 2006 to review progress towards the commitments made, to share lessons on actions to tackle illegal logging, and to make findings available.
The Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) is a high-level political initiative involving 40 European countries and the European Community, launched in 1990 to promote sustainable forest management in Europe. The dialogue also involves as observers non-European countries, non-governmental and international organizations, forest owner's associations and the forest industry.
At its fourth meeting in 2003, the MCPFE issued the Vienna Living Forest Summit Declaration, which commits parties to 26 actions, including two focused on improving governance in the forest sector in Europe and beyond:
Signatories agreed to develop a work programme for the implementation of the commitments of the Fourth Ministerial Conference.
The run-up to the 2002 Word Summit on Sustainable Development saw the formation of two international partnerships bringing together national governments, international institutions and civil society groups. Their objectives included tackling illegal logging.
The Asia Forest Partnership (AFP) was launched by Japan and Indonesia and now includes 15 governments, the European Commission, eight international organizations and four non-governmental groups. Priorities of the partnership include the development of minimum legal standards, timber tracking, introduction of verification systems, promotion of measures by countries to eliminate export and import of illegally harvested timber, international cooperation and coordination on trade statistics, information exchange on illegal logging and illegal trade, research and awareness raising. One of the AFP initiatives is examining opportunities for cooperation between regional border control agencies. A study completed under the auspices of The Nature Conservancy has looked at existing laws in key trading countries in Asia and this will be further developed during 2005.
The Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) consists of 29 members including three international organizations and ten non-governmental groups. It aims to improve communication and coordination among its members to promote sustainable management of Congo Basin Forest ecosystems and wildlife, ensure good governance, and raise the living standards of the people in the region. One of the most recent joint CBFP initiatives was a workshop held in March 2004 to design a forest concession monitoring system to document the industry's logging practices in the region, and highlight the companies that are making the most significant strides toward sustainability.
The 2003 Presidential Initiative aims to assist developing countries in combating illegal logging, illegal timber trade and corruption in the forest sector. It focuses on the Congo Basin, the Amazon Basin and Central America as well as South and Southeast Asia.
The initiative is based on four strategic actions:
Actions include supporting the US Agency for International Development's Sustainable Forest Products Global Alliance, co-financing ITTO projects to provide training in CITES implementation and to improve timber trade data, assessing international timber markets to identify critical factors related to illegal logging, and examining domestic legal authorities to combat illegal logging.
This three-year programme, launched in October 2002, aims at facilitating reforms by national, regional and international institutions to address the problem of illegal logging and international trade in illegally harvested timber. It focuses on improved forest governance in West and Central Africa as well as on the maintenance of the political momentum of the Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (AFLEG) process through support of subregional meetings, civil society strengthening and private sector dialogue. Support to promote and implement Voluntary Partnership Agreements under the EU's FLEGT Action Plan will also strengthen opportunities to harness consumer market forces and eliminate illegally logged timber products from West and Central African countries' exports to the EU.
Bilateral agreements can be developed by trading partners as a market-based tool to curb illegal timber trade. Indonesia for instance now has bilateral agreements with some of its main wood and wood product buyers such as the United Kingdom, Norway, China, Japan and Korea. These involve a "memorandum of understanding" committing the parties to work together to reduce, and eventually eliminate, illegal logging and international trade in illegally logged timber and wood products.
The Memorandum of Understanding between Indonesia and the United Kingdom, the most developed to date, stipulates that the Parties will work together on regulatory and policy reforms, including:
In order to guide the implementation of the Memorandum, a joint action plan was established, including a timetable for carrying out the commitments outlined above. It is worth noting that some countries have taken not bilateral but unilateral steps to prevent illegal wood from entering their markets. For instance, Malaysia has passed a law banning timber imports from Indonesia.
International agencies can assist governments in rationalizing their national forest policy and legislative framework and in providing capacity building for better law enforcement.
The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) is an interagency partnership of 14 major forest-related international organizations, institutions and convention secretariats, which was established in April 2001 to enhance cooperation and coordination on forest issues. The main activities of partners in the area of forest law enforcement are described in the individual agency sections.
Illegal forest activities were prominently exposed in FAO's State of the World's Forests 2001 report. Subsequently, the Organization has been carrying out various activities in support of countries' efforts to promote better forest sector governance. An expert meeting was organized in early 2002, with participation from various international organizations, NGOs, the private sector and research institutions to examine the range of policy reforms that could potentially improve law compliance in the forest sector. Projects to improve forest law enforcement are also supported in Mozambique, Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. FAO's Regional Forestry Commissions also serve as a forum for sharing information and promoting cooperation at the regional level on a wide range of issues, including forest governance and timber trade.
The statement of the 2005 Ministerial Meeting hosted by FAO includes a commitment to improve domestic forest law enforcement and governance and, to this end, promote international cooperation to support international trade in timber and forest products from legally harvested and sustainably managed forests. The 2005 FAO Committee on Forestry requested that FAO assist countries to enhance forest law enforcement.
The FAO-hosted National Forest Programme Facility contributes to policy reform in member countries by strengthening their knowledge basis and facilitating its dissemination to the public, decision-makers and other interested parties, thus increasing awareness and facilitating policy and legal reforms. The Facility can integrate considerations about illegal activities in its programmes of action.
ITTO has a membership of 59 countries representing 80 percent of the world's tropical forests and accounting for 95 percent of the global trade in tropical timber. ITTO acts as a forum for debates on forest trade and sustainable forest management and also funds projects, some of which focus on forest governance and illegal trade. In November 2001, the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTC) adopted a decision on "forest law enforcement in the context of sustainable timber production and trade". In-depth country case studies on forest law enforcement were commissioned, (some of which were used in preparing this paper) and member countries were encouraged to submit project proposals dealing with law enforcement. ITTO also helps member countries to design frameworks for law enforcement in the forest sector. ITTO is supporting the implementation of phased approaches to certification in tropical timber producing countries. An important step in these phased approaches is the verification of the legality of wood.
PROFOR, a World Bank-hosted multidonor initiative established in 1997 to implement some of the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, aims at enhancing the contribution of forests to poverty reduction, sustainable development and protection of environmental services. Forest governance - and within it, forest policy and law enforcement - is on PROFOR's agenda.
The UNFF was established in 2000 to promote the implementation of IPF/IFF proposals for action. In 2003, the fourth session of the Forum discussed illegal logging and associated trade. The resolution of the Forum exhorted countries to improve law enforcement in the forest sector and control illegal trade of forest products. It also requested the support of the international community to provide the resources needed to improve law enforcement.
The World Bank Forest Strategy includes improving forest sector governance and the control of illegal activities and corruption among its priority areas of support. As coordinating agency, the World Bank has taken a leading role in the organization of the regional FLEG initiatives in Asia and Africa discussed above. The Bank also contributes to fighting illegal activities in the forestry sector of various countries.
The World Bank/WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use is a global partnership including governments, the private sector, and civil society. The Alliance's focus is on conservation and sustainable management of forest protected areas and forest certification. The Alliance is helping the Government of Indonesia to develop a strategy for fighting illegal logging in accordance with the recommendations and agreements under the FLEG initiative.
Mechanisms aiming at regulating international wood and wood product trade are important but they are only one of many tools which can be used to fight illegal logging and trade. In addition to the operational problems mentioned above, only a small proportion of production is traded internationally and domestic markets do not generally attach great importance to legality. It is therefore of utmost importance to also focus on fostering better governance and law compliance in the forest sector at the national and local levels.