A multi-stakeholder gathering in Manila
Organized by the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), a regional workshop was held during 11-13 September in Manila, Philippines, to promote multi-stakeholder dialogue and the exchange of views among countries in Southeast Asia on the challenges related to improving forest law compliance and governance, and to agree on tangible and deliverable actions to enhance progress on the ground.
Some 50 representatives from concerned government agencies, NGOs and private sector in 10 countries as well as 14 regional/international organizations actively engaged in panel and plenary discussions and working group deliberations.
The workshop reiterated the aspirations and high-level commitment of the Bali Ministerial Declaration in September 2001 to address illegal logging and its associated trade, and took stock of the ongoing initiatives carried out, among others, by the East Asia Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (EA-FLEG) process, ASEAN Secretariat, Asia Forest Partnership, the EU-FLEGT Action Plan, FAO and ITTO.
Any strategy aimed at addressing the problems of illegal logging must be holistic and include a wide range of policy, legal, institutional and technical options designed to: 1) rationalize the policy and legal framework; 2) build institutional capacity; and 3) improve knowledge and information about the forest resources and sector.
These three key elements of an integrated strategic approach to improve forest law compliance and governance formed the framework for the workshop structure and process. Accordingly, the participants were able to identify the major obstacles to improving compliance and governance, formulate concrete recommendations and next steps to surmount these barriers, and specify the roles of different stakeholders in implementing the recommended actions.
Effectively implementing these recommendations would have profound impacts in terms of delivering on the promise of the Bali Declaration and acting as an effective deterrent for future forest crimes. For example, the arrest, prosecution and conviction of major large-scale illegal loggers and/or corrupt government officials, along with seizure and forfeiture of all ill-gotten wealth, would be a major breakthrough for ongoing initiatives to curb illegal logging.
One critical action identified for all stakeholders is to develop strategic alliances for effective resource mobilization to support the implementation of future actions, which includes promoting corporate social responsibility approaches, securing government budget allocations, and obtaining supplementary donor support for transitional arrangements and capacity building.
The participants strongly urged governments to make explicit commitments to implement recommended actions and time-bound next steps at upcoming meetings regarding FLEG, including the 29th ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry Conference (Bangkok, September 2007), in which a ministerial declaration or statement on EA-FLEG is expected to be issued, and the second EA-FLEG Ministerial Meeting (anticipated sometime in 2008).