Domain: Improving the quality of Brainforest’s IM missions and reports
Meanwhile, in Gabon there was no history of independent forest monitoring by civil society at all. Furthermore, there was limited national third-party oversight of the forest and natural resource sector in Gabon. These modest civil society efforts to monitor the forest sector were further undermined by a significant lack of appreciation and acceptance of IM on the part of decision makers, the private sector and other actors. Opportunities and synergies were missed due to a lack of coordination amongst the civil society actors and there were limited opportunities for cross-country learning and engagement with law enforcement agencies.
Where there was little activity, there is now expertise
Prior to CV4C project, Gabon had almost no experience in the implementation of independent forest monitoring (IM), apart from a one-off initiative that briefly introduced the concept. As a result, missions and reports were carried out with the sole aim of denouncing illegal activity. This his could be considered a confrontational approach, because in some reports, although information was well-founded, evidence was often missing.
What have been the main successes and the factors behind them?
The variety of training undertaken within the CV4C project, coupled with the support during the implementation of IM missions, has allowed Brainforest to follow up on previously reported illegal logging activities. The implementation of these missions has followed a rigorous and adapted methodology. Brainforest reports have been at the centre of actions taken by the forest administration, particularly actions taken by the minister in dismissing certain agent cited in the mission reports. Reports now present facts that are analysed with reference to the law. Evidence is geo-referenced and mapped, ensuring full objectivity. A peer-review process ensures the quality of the information published.
What were the challenges (or failures)?
The main challenge is the limited access to information, from administrations, forest concessionaires and at logging sites. Better defining the framework for collaboration with the forest administration would also make it possible to make better use of information. Another challenge currently being faced is acquiring the technical and material means to extend the IM methodology to the monitoring of sectors other than timber.
What are the main lessons learned?
Independent monitoring requires not only a good command of investigative techniques, but also of all the legislation governing the sector to be monitored. Capacity building at this level is essential.