News in brief - December 2015

15 Dezember 2015

Condolences: Fern is deeply saddened to learn of the deaths of several members of Maxime Kamegba’s family following the inter-communal clashes that erupted in Bangui, Central African Republic, in September 2015. Maxime is a highly dedicated staff member of Maison de l’Enfant et de la Femme Pygmées (MEFP), one of the oldest indigenous people’s rights organisation in the CAR and a Fern partner. His terrible loss comes as people in his country are trying to heal the wounds of the recent civil conflict. Fern would like to express its deepest condolences to Maxime and his family, and renewed support for the exemplary work MEFP is conducting in CAR to protect the rights of forest-dependent communities.

Look out for Fern’s VPA update, which will be published in the coming days. Every six months, Fern produces an update examining the current situation regarding Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) in various countries, with a particular emphasis on Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs).

L´Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l´Homme (OCDH) was awarded France’s 2015 Human Rights Prize (Prix 2015 des droits de l'Homme de la République française) for its work to strengthen the rights of local and indigenous communities in the Republic of Congo. OCDH, a respected human rights organisation, has been at the forefront of civil society’s efforts to advance forest governance in Congo through the FLEGT/VPA, and has collaborated with Fern to advance the rights of forest communities. OCDH is a model for civil society groups that work to promote recognition of community contributions to keeping forests standing.

Interpol has seized illegally harvested timber worth more than USD 216 million and arrested 44 people following a series of investigations into illegal logging in West Africa. “Operation Log” took place in nine West African countries between July and September 2015. High-value rosewood timber was a key focus of the investigation, with export routes to Asia an area of particular concern. Two of the investigated countries, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, are engaged in the European Union’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process, which aims to tackle illegal logging in producer countries: Ghana’s VPA with the EU was signed in 2009, and Côte d’Ivoire has been negotiating a VPA since 2013. The investigations underscore the EU’s need to enforce its Timber Regulation (EUTR), to ensure that it is not importing shipments like those recently seized. Investigations into the involved criminal networks will continue.

Prince Charles has called for the protection and large-scale restoration of forests as a key part of tackling climate change. Speaking at the COP21, the British royal said: “We must save our forests. There is no Plan B to tackle climate change without them.” He added that the best way for governments to save forests was to grant legal title to the indigenous people who live in them. The prince also criticised “many of the world’s largest companies and their financial backers [who paid] no attention to deforestation footprint of their supply chains.” Fern can only agree, given that the prince’s views echo much of Fern’s Protecting Forests, Respecting Rights campaign.

 FERN works to achieve environmental and social justice with a focus on forests and forest peoples' rights in the policies and practices of the European Union.

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