With lots of emphasis laid on the environmental matters, social and anti-corruption matters gain insufficient attention. Evidence shows that current transparency and voluntary regimes are not yielding strong human rights due diligence by companies. Europe’s leadership in the next year on human rights and environmental due diligence legislation has never been more needed.
Collected news links from external sources related to topics concerning the Book Chain Project.
Early December, over 100 NGOs, trade unions and networks stress their demands for binding rules on corporate respect for human rights and the environment. They point out that although some companies are taking actions to meet their responsibilities in their global operations, there are many others linked to serious abuses, including modern slavery, gender discrimination, corruption, deforestation, etc. Current EU policy and legislation fails to adequately address this challenge. They propose that 1) companies and investors are required to carry out human rights andenvironmental due diligence; 2) new binding EU legislation that increases protection for individuals and communities, workers and their representatives, human rights defenders, and the environment, is passed.
In the recent Forest forum meeting we shared Complicit in Corruption - a recent report written by non-profit Earthsight, highlighting the widespread corruption in Ukraine's forests, and revealing how illegality permeates the timber supply chain in Ukraine from harvest to export.
Earthsight spent two years running field and undercover investigations in Ukraine. Approximately 70% of Ukraine's timber exports enter the EU and Earthsight's investigations indicate that 40% of this timber is being illegally harvest or traded. The report also claims that a significant volume of illegally harvested timber has received the FSC stamp - the former chief of one of the largest timber producing state-forest enterprises admitted to Earthsight he had found it easy to circumvent FSC checks.
Long known as a hotspot for rapid and largely illegal deforestation, Cambodia was singled out in a May 2017 EIA report. The report was the result of months of undercover investigations which found that from November 2016, more than 300,000 cubic metres (nearly 10.6 million cubic feet) of timber have been illegally felled in a wildlife sanctuary and two protected areas in Cambodia. Most of the timber was sold to Vietnam and generated $13 million in payments from Vietnamese timber traders. Environmental experts believe that a much-publicized crackdown on illegal logging launched in Cambodia in early 2016 had very little effect.
According to the new report released by The international policy organization (Interpol), corruption in the forestry sector globally costs about $29 billion annually, with bribery as the most common form. The study finds that the forestry sector is particularly vulnerable to corruption as many forests since many forests are located in placed where governance and regulatory regimes are poor. Also, the point when corruption occurs most frequently is at the harvest, identified in another study Interpol collaborated with TREES project. Recommendations including policy and legislative reforms, capacity building, financial investigations, and Interpol anti-corruption investigators were provided to reduce the risk of corruption in forestry operations.
Indonesia’s anti-graft commission said government agencies have agreed on a plan to combat corruption in the forestry industry that costs the state billions of dollars in lost revenue and is behind fires that pollute Southeast Asia. The plan leans heavily on technology to build an accurate picture of where illegal deforestation and conversion of peatland into farmland is occurring, using Landsat satellites, drones and LIDAR pulsed laser-based mapping.
A new report from Forest Trends has found agricultural concessions in Cambodia provide entry points for destructive logging of natural forests, where some concessions are even located inside designated protected areas. This indicates a recent shift for Cambodian forests, which were previously being encroached by smallholder farmers. The landowners working these concessions are now much larger companies, opening access to previously inaccessible land. The report questions the levels of corruption and transparency within Cambodia - particularly at the point where concessions are identified and awarded – and calls for a logging moratorium while a full legal assessment is done on all designated forest land.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) is working with environmentalists to combat illegal logging in the country’s Far East. Activists from WWF described long term collaboration with officials from Russia’s former KGB service in the effort to combat corruption and illegal timber exports as “unusual” but also unavoidable. WWF has been providing training for local customs officials on how to spot illegal species. A 2013 report by the Environmental Investigation Agency estimated that 96% of the valuable hardwoods harvested in the Russian Far East end up in China, while at least 80% of all felled trees have been logged illegally.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has been documenting and exposing the illicit trade in stolen timber in Indonesia for more than 15 years. According to a new EIA report, it’s all a huge illusion that Indonesia appears to bring rainforest logging under control. Traditional logging has been replaced by the mass clearance of rainforest for oil palm plantations, creating massive supplies of hugely profitable but often illegal timber. And lurking beneath the surface is a pervasive network of criminality and corruption. NGOs and progressive government figures have emphasised the need to look beyond sectoral legislation and to corruption laws in order to address this.
1. Zero deforestation commitments. 2015 may be the year that many of the zero deforestation commitments are actually implemented.
2. Joko Widodo’s forest commitments. As Indonesia’s new president takes on the challenge of reforming the forestry sector, look out for greater scrutiny of concession licensees, as well as a crack-down on forestry-related corruption.
3. The Brazilian Amazon. There are concerns that Brazil’s current downward deforestation trajectory may not last.
4. Will Paris product a binding climate framework? Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is expected to have a central role in the climate talks in Paris at the end of the year.
5. Where are the new deforestation hotspots? Data from the WRI suggests that deforestation may be rising in several countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Ecuador and Ghana amongst others. 2015 will also uncover new studies and tools that will help better quantify change in forest cover.
6. Falling commodity prices. Lower prices reduce the profitability of converting rainforests for palm oil plantations. On the other hand, companies may be less likely to adopt environmental measures if they have less cash on hand.
7. Myanmar. As Myanmar opens up further to foreign investors, concerns about the fate of the country’s forests will rise.
8. Dams in the Amazon. Indigenous groups and environmentalists are ready to fight against Brazil’s hydro projects in the Tapajos basin.
9. RSPO and zero deforestation. If the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) does move towards zero deforestation it has a critical tool in place to do so: last year members were required to submit the GPS coordinates of their concessions.
10. Jurisdictional initiatives. Sub-national efforts to develop forest-friendly policies and initiatives will move forward in 2015.
• 2014 was the ‘year of the zero deforestation commitment’, particularly in the palm oil sector but also for agribusinesses like Cargill.
• Plantation forestry, in all of its various forms, is still seen as one of the biggest drivers of deforestation.
• APP continues to see praise for their work implementing the Forest Conservation Policy.
• APRIL continues to be criticised for their weak policy and poor performance.
• Global Forest Watch was lauded as a significant leap forward for open source forest monitoring.
• Drones made their first foray into forest conservation and are being used by Cargill, and imminently by Brazilian forest agencies, for monitoring and enforcement.
• The mood in Indonesia is quietly optimistic, with a new government in place departments have merged (Ministry of Forestry and Ministry of Environment merging), and there was a widespread crackdown on corruption.
• NGOs have turned their attention to a new aspect of the pulp and paper sector: dissolving pulp, which is used in a diverse range of products including clothing and toiletries.
PEFC Italy, along with Conlegno, RiSSC, Risk Monitor and CNVP have launched a project aimed at preventing criminal organizations infiltrating into the EU timber market. The TREES project (Timber Regulation Enforcement to protect European wood Sector from criminal infiltration) aims at promoting standard procedures to prevent the risks of criminal infiltrations into the European market. By the end of the project, a standardized set of guidelines, actions and strategies to overcome difficulties in Due Diligence implementation will be developed, providing market operators with suggestions on how to carry out risk assessments and risk procedures.
Liberia is to become the first African nation to stop cutting down trees in return for development aid. Liberia is the home to a significant part of West Africa’s remaining forest, with about 43% of the Upper Guinean forest, and it is also a global diversity hotspot, home to the last remaining viable populations of species. Illegal logging in Liberia stared from 2003 after the civil war ended, and some researchers have connected the outbreak of Ebola with the widespread deforestation, which brings people into contact with natural reservoir of the virus. Now Norway has reached agreement with Liberia government that Norway will help Liberia to build up the capacity to monitor and police the forests. With widespread corruption and a government struggling to impost its authority, it should be recognized that stopping all the logging in Liberia will not be easy.
A new report by Forest Trends, a US based NGO, found out that around five football fields of tropical forest have been illegally cleared every minute between 2000 and 2012, which losses have been driven by consumer demand for beef, leather and timber in Europe and US. The values of this trade in commodities including timber, leather, beef, soy and palm oil, accounting for $61bn a year. The majority of the illegal deforestation for commercial agriculture has been in Brazil and Indonesia. The local governments are lack of capacity to enforce laws to against illegal logging. Report found that licences and permits to cut the trees are often acquired through corruption. Authors believe that consumer countries in EU could have done more to tackle the problem. Strong regulations rather than voluntary actions is the better solution. The biggest concern for campaigners now is the spread of illegal deforestation to new countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Cambodia has the 5th fastest rate of deforestation in the world. By law, the government have to put any wood that is seized from illegal logging activity up for auction with the proceeds deposited in the state treasury. However these auctions are not transparent, and corruption is rife. Illegal wood is often sold to government officials at cheaper than market prices, which actually promotes further illegal logging activity. The investigative report highlights cases of corruption and the attempts to stop the trade of illegally sourced wood by NGOs.
A recent news briefing by the EIA, entitled “Data Corruption: Exposing the true scale of logging in Myanmar”, which scrutinises official figures on log harvests and timber exports over the past 15 years has indicated widespread criminality and official corruption in the area. The report found that between 2000 and 2013, only 28% trade was recorded, suggesting that the remaining 72% of log shipments were illegal. These illegal exports were worth four times the combined 2013-14 education and health budgets for the entire of the US, at a value of US$6 billion. The EIA has called on the Government of Myanmar to vigorously enforce a log export ban effective from April 1st 2013, as well as significantly increasing transparency in the management of forest resources.
A study by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford has found that forests are better protected when local communities manage them locally. The research was undertaken in Cambodia, a country that has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. Alternative methods of forest protection, such as community forestry, are needed in countries that have high levels of corruption. The study found that sites maintained by locals had fewer signs of man-made damage, such as stumps and burned trees.
The Indonesian language version of the report from Human Rights Watch called “The Dark Side of Green Growth: Human Rights Impacts of Weak Governance in Indonesia’s Forestry Sector” was released today. The report says that the new FLEGT VPA between the EU and Indonesia does not address whether harvesting of the timber has violated local community rights and it does not address corruption in the issuance of timber cutting licences. The NGO is concerned that the problems related to local community rights are likely to worsen rather than improve as the government’s “green development” plan aggressively expands plantations of pulp trees for paper and oil palm for biofuel.
Peruvian environmental prosecutor, Francisco Berrospi, comments on the corruption he has experienced first-hand across the timber trade in the Peruvian Amazon. A slideshow also accompanies this story: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2013/10/19/world/americas/20131019Peru.html?ref=americas
Global Witness has accused Danish timber company, DLH, of illegal timber purchases worth $305,000 in 2012. The investigation showed that the timber was felled using outdated permits that were deemed illegal in Liberia because of widespread misuse, fraud and corruption. These accusations put DLH in breach of its FSC certification, and any further imports of this kind would make the company liable to criminal sanctions under the EU Timber Regulation.