The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) convened a Technical Working Group (TWG) of 20 international experts to discuss, agree and refine guiding legal elements in relation to sustainable forest management, production and trade. CIDT’s Dr Aurelian Mbzibain was invited to participate in this first TWG meeting in Rome from the 14-15 May 2019. The meeting, which included lawyers and practitioners in forest management, timber production and trade, gender equality in forestry, customary law, natural resource legislation, land and forest tenure, and employment rights, was officially opened by Ewald Rametsteiner, Deputy Director of the FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division. The meeting was also attended by Serge Moukouri, representing FLAG, a partner on the CV4C project.
Over the past 15 years, timber-producing regions have scaled up efforts to combat illegal logging and to improve the legality of timber production and trade. Illegal logging undermines efforts towards sustainable forest management and negatively affects a country’s ability to achieve broader sustainable development objectives, such as poverty alleviation, food security and climate change mitigation. Tackling trade in illegal timber is therefore critical to the achievement of Agenda 2030’s Sustainable Development Goals. In a joint report by FAO and the ITTO on forest law governance and compliance, flawed policy and legal frameworks were recognised as an important issue in two-thirds of country reports for West Africa. Importantly, this was also considered a challenge for civil society and the private sector.
A key challenge to define timber legality is the identification of relevant national sectoral laws and regulations. Because of the complexity of the timber value chain, illegality can arise from a violation of sectoral laws and regulations beyond forestry law alone. National laws and regulations place obligations on the various actors along the timber value chain which – depending on countries – may or may not be part of the legality check at the point of export. This situation may create challenges for timber producers, exporters, importers and compliance officers in timber exporting and importing countries who sometimes lack information on national legal requirements around timber production and trade.
The Japanese government has recently funded, through FAO, a two-year project entitled ‘Enhancing knowledge and capacity around forest-related legislation and timber legality’, which supported the TWG to meet. Keynote presentations to the TWG were delivered by Daphne Hewitt and Daniele Lenci, FAO Project Leads.