What's the problem with illegal logging?

Lack of clarity about who owns the forest and poor forest governance lead to illegal logging.

This is devastating for communities and wildlife; it releases vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; and it keeps forested countries locked in cycles of poverty and corruption.

Despite this, consumers and companies unwittingly buy illegal timber and wood-based products – undermining the fight against illegal logging by making it financially viable.  

Illegal logging is often integral to economies, providing money which supports political parties and local communities. The way to address it is by dealing with the root causes of illegality, which include corruption, a lack of clarity over land rights, and the excessive influence of the timber industry over forest policies and legislation. 

To tackle the root causes, in 2003 the European Union (EU) launched its flagship anti-illegal logging policy, the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. It sets out a series of measures to end the scourge of illegal logging, including the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which requires companies to verify the legality of any timber products they import into the EU.

What is a FLEGT VPA? And how can it contribute to improving forest governance and management? 

The FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) are trade deals between the EU and timber producing countries. These agreements aim to ensure that wood exported into the EU is legal, and that forest governance improves in exporting countries. They do so by tackling the roots of illegality, including corruption and a lack of clarity over land tenure and access rights – ultimately leading to a timber trade that is transparent, accountable and sustainable, and which supports, rather than harms, forest communities. 

One of the VPAs’ unique features is that they allow different groups – from the government, the private sector, civil society and forest communities – the chance to discuss how forests should be managed. They are the only trade agreements that champion such a bold and innovative approach, and they are therefore seen as a model of multi-stakeholder governance. 

Watch the video "Introducing FLEGT"

The lesson is clear: forests and forest communities are intrinsically linked, so the fate of the former cannot be discussed without the involvement of those who have protected and nurtured them for so long. 

What do Fern and our partners want?  

To improve governance, accountability and transparency in the forest sector by strengthening the rights of local communities and civil society groups. Some measure FLEGT’s success by timber arriving in the EU that’s been harvested, processed and exported legally. We measure it in the opening up of democratic space for civil society, and in raising marginalised communities’ voices.

What are we doing?  

Working with our partners in tropical forested countries to strengthen forest governance.  

In Africa and South East Asia, we work to support and learn from our partners, who are participating in the negotiation or implementation of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with the EU as part of the FLEGT Action Plan. We believe that EU programmes and policies are improved when policy makers receive direct input from our partner NGOs who work closely with forest communities and affected people on the ground. Our work aims to explain the EU’s workings to national NGOs and to open space at the EU for them to be heard.

Talk to us

Chiara Vitali

Chiara Vitali

Forest Governance Campaigner

Marie-Ange Kalenga

Marie-Ange Kalenga

Responsable de la campaña gobernanza forestal

Rudi Kohnert

Rudi Kohnert

Experta en supervisión y evaluación

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