Forest law enforcement

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Log tracking helps ensure legality.

Reliable information on the extent of forest-related crime is hard to obtain. Nevertheless, it is clear that crimes such as illegal logging and the illegal trade of forest products are a threat to sustainable forest management and sustainable development in many countries and must be confronted.

A decision by the International Tropical Timber Council in November 2001 was an important step on this track. It provided resources whereby tropical timber-producing countries could obtain assistance from the Organization to devise ways of improving forest law enforcement. It also encouraged members to submit project proposals that address unsustainable timber harvesting, forest law enforcement and illegal trade in tropical timber, with a view to attracting increased funding to address these areas.

ITTO recognizes that increasing the transparency of the timber trade can also help reduce illegality. In fact, since its very beginning the Organization has collected, analysed and disseminated trade-related data (see timber trade and markets) and has devoted considerable resources to increasing the capacity of member countries to monitor their timber sectors (see statistical capacity building).

ITTO recently initiated a series of case-studies on the export and import data of various countries. These studies serve two objectives: shedding light on undocumented trade, and improving statistical reporting on timber in both producing and consuming countries.

In addition, ITTO is working with government and non-government partners to undertake a data collection initiative on the forests of three countries in the Congo Basin. This initiative is aimed at improving the enforcement of forest laws in forest concession areas to promote better forest management and the effective conservation of protected areas.

More generally, many ITTO projects to promote sustainable forest management are invariably linked to efforts to minimize illegal practices, particularly at the stage of logging and extraction. ITTO's pioneering contributions to the development of guidelines, principles and criteria and indicators of sustainable management of tropical forests, as well as its ongoing work on timber certification and its role in forest management planning, are relevant here. ITTO's project work on the development of transboundary conservation areas is also playing a role: apart from meeting conservation needs, totally protected transboundary areas can serve an important function in the monitoring and prevention of illegal forest-related activities, especially cross-border smuggling.

For a detailed account of ITTO's action agenda, please refer to the ITTO Action Plan 2008-2011, or click on Resources and Project portfolio to see more about ITTO's work on forest law enforcement.