The research is summarized in a recently-published joint FAO-ITTO report, Best Practices for Improving Law Compliance in the Forest Sector, which highlights successful efforts to combat illegal logging undertaken in eleven countries: Bolivia, Cambodia, Cameroon, Ecuador, Honduras, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Peru.
"The report gives examples of some of the innovative approaches already being used by governments, and by focusing on success stories it is really the first study of its kind to outline remedial actions instead of just dwelling on the problem of illegal logging," said Eva Muller, an FAO forest expert.
Although it is too early to quantify the success of the measures highlighted in the report, added ITTO expert Steven Johnson, some of them are producing visible improvements. "By sharing these successful case studies, ITTO and FAO hope to provide guidance to other countries wrestling with the problem of illicit logging," he said.
Billions lost to illegal logging
FAO's most recent Gobal Forest Resources Assessment found that while the world's rate of net forest loss is slowing, deforestation is still happening at an alarmingly high rate -- about 13 million hectares per year. Most of that loss occurs as a result of forests being converted to agricultural land, but illegal logging plays a role too.
According to World Bank estimates, governments lose revenues totalling around US$5 billion annually as a result of illegal logging -- overall losses to the national economies of timber producing countries add up to an additional US$10 billion per year.
Beyond financial impacts, illegal logging also leads to unsustainable forest management, distorts timber markets and can exacerbate income disparities, note FAO and the ITTO.
What counter-measures are working?
Best Practices for Improving Law Compliance in the Forest Sector highlights a wide range of approaches being used by governments to deal with illicit logging.
For example, in 2000 Ecuador created a mechanism, called the Regencia forestal, under which independent professional foresters check to ensure that forest operators are complying with laws and regulations. Violations can lead to the revocation of operating licenses or other penalties.
Ecuador also established check-points between its forests and the locations where wood processing and marketing occurs -- this measure resulted in a six-fold increase in government seizures of illegally-produced timber during its first year of implementation.
In Cambodia, the promotion of community-managed forestry management, a system in which local communities own and manage forests, helped to limit forest crime.
The government of Gambia streamlined harvesting guidelines and recognized local forest management rules, making it easier for small-scale forest operators to comply with regulations and abide by the law.
The report, which provides numerous other examples of steps being taken to put an end to illegal logging, also highlights four overarching areas where policy reforms can help:
- making forestry laws and policies more rational, equitable, transparent and streamlined;Best Practices for Improving Law Compliance in the Forest Sector is available online at:
- improving monitoring and information gathering;
- strengthening national capacities to enforce compliance;
- ensuring that policies take into account the economic and social dynamics that underlie illegal logging.
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