On International Forests Day, we’re reflecting back on some of our achievements over the last year.
Stronger forest governance in Central and West Africa
- In Ghana, a new regulation passed that aims to reduce the sale of illegal timber and promote better forest management. ClientEarth ran legal working groups with national NGOs to help develop their legal skills, so that they could better input into the regulation and advocate for forest and community rights. With this new regulation, Ghana will be better able to manage its forests while collecting more revenue in tax. But most importantly, people and organisations in Ghana will be better able to protect and benefit from the forests they relate to.
- In Liberia, we published a new legal guide to help local communities negotiate a better share in the benefits of forest resources. Timber companies are required to pay land rent to forest communities by entering into social agreements. By using the law, we are helping strengthen the hand of local people entering into these agreements.
- In the Republic of Congo, we supported civil society to make recommendations on community forest laws, which have been reflected in the new draft Forest Code. We also met communities in Gabon and Nepal and discussed the opportunities and challenges that community forests face.
- As well as helping civil society make recommendations on new proposed forest laws, we held meetings with stakeholders in Cote d’Ivoire to share experiences and brainstorm around independent monitoring. Independent monitoring helps ensure companies comply with forest laws, through field visits and document verifications. The latest draft forest laws now include provisions for independent monitoring in Ivory Coast.
Improving laws in Europe
- The Commission launched the first ever case against an EU country for not enforcing the EU Timber Regulation properly. Following a complaint made by ClientEarth and a parallel complaint by Greenpeace, Belgium was taken to task for not carrying out enough checks on timber companies operating on the Belgian market. This sends a strong message to other countries to step up and stop illegal timber being sold in Europe.
- We expanded our work on the EUTR to Eastern Europe. We trained government authorities responsible for enforcing the EUTR in Bulgaria, as well as NGOs and local activists about how to use the law to combat illegal logging more effectively.
New research and analysis
- Our analysis of the risks that come from unclear or incomplete forest conversion laws will culminate in a new toolkit, available soon. This will help decision-makers develop robust legal frameworks on forest conversion.
- After meeting with parliamentarians and local communities in the Congo basin, we published a comparison table about the laws and regulations that govern community forestry in the area.
- Based on what public information is available, we published new research that found countries across the EU need step up enforcement and transparency of the EUTR.
- We’ve also started to challenge the growing use of biomass for energy in the EU. The industry is pushing positive messages about the ‘environmental benefits’ of biomass as a renewable fuel source, but we are challenging the false and misleading messages about its carbon savings.
These achievements have been possible because of the close collaboration with in-country lawyers, NGOs and forest communities across Central and West Africa and Europe.
In 2018, we will continue to use the power of the law to protect forests and the people who depend on them.