Illegal logging is directly connected to corruption, weak and unclear laws, compromised officials, feeble government institutions and fragile civil society. It devastates communities, destroys the environment, denies tax revenue to governments and can trap countries in a cycle of poverty.
Laws can also however forbid small scale logging despite it often being both sustainable and an integral part of the local economy, supporting political parties, small companies, and local communities. This is why just clamping down on illegal activities doesn’t get to the root cause of the problem.
It will only be possible to tackle the root causes of illegal logging if:
- It is possible to see and record what is happening (transparency),
- People are being held to account for upholding the law (accountability),
- People have the skills, time and resources to monitor logging activities and point out any problems (capacity), and
- Relevant laws support, not undermine, local communities’ rights (just laws).
A capable and well-informed local, national and international civil society can help to achieve these changes, by demanding transparency, holding institutions and individuals to account, challenging the excessive influence of the timber industry over forest policies, and campaigning for legal reform.
To ensure that attempts to end illegal logging are successful, ‘just’ laws need to be in place to ensure that the legal system supports communities, instead of penalising them. This means that the people affected by forestry operations must have the power to influence legislation and policies related to forestry, and be able to campaign for effective enforcement.