Every year, a significant proportion of the world¿s timber is harvested, transported, processed and traded in violation of national laws. Illegal logging and associated timber trade have far reaching environmental, social and economic consequences, including loss of biodiversity and habitats, political instability, increased income disparities and market distortions. While accurate data on the scope of illegal forest activities is not available, the World Bank estimates that losses from illegal logging in terms of global market value are more than US$10 billion annually and lost government revenues total about US$5 billion.

The magnitude of the problem has prompted governments, with the help of international and non-governmental organizations as well as the private sector, to step up their analysis of the socio-economic causes and consequences of illegal logging. Studies have shown that issues to be resolved include:

  • flawed policy and legal frameworks;
  • uncertainty surrounding forest tenure;
  • weak law enforcement; insufficient information on forest resources, coupled with increased demand for forest products;
  • corruption and lack of transparency. Several processes are therefore underway at international, regional and national levels to combat forest crime and improve compliance.

FAO provides support to several countries to strengthen their forest policy framework; build institutional capacity to foster better forest law compliance; gather additional data on their forest resources; and determine the extent and nature of illegal operations. In cooperation with ITTO, FAO also published a report in 2005 which identified best practices to improve law compliance in the forest sector, based on the experiences of countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. The study is the first of its kind to propose remedial actions and notes that governments are increasingly taking the initiative to design and implement measures to combat illegality in the forest sector.  

However, even well designed initiatives will fail unless there is political commitment at the highest level to address corruption and lack of transparency in the forest sector.  Improving forest law enforcement and governance will also require better collaboration across sectors and more stakeholder involvement.

Strategies to address illegal forest activities must be specific to each country if they are to respond to particular needs. While it is not desirable or even possible to develop policy, legal and institutional schemes that can be applied across the board to improve forest law compliance, efforts in the following areas can yield positive results:

  • making forest laws and policies rational, equitable, transparent and streamlined;
  • improving forest monitoring and information gathering;
  • strengthening national institutional capacities to enforce laws;
  • formulating policies in the forest and other sectors that take into account the economic and social dynamics that underlie illegal logging.

For further information please contact:

Eva Müller
Forest Policy Service (FOEP)
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla - 00153 Rome - Italy
Tel: +39-06-57054628
E-mail: [email protected]

last updated:  Tuesday, January 26, 2010