Africa's rainforest depend on cutting out corruption

Press release - 5 February, 2005
Greenpeace doubts that the well-intentioned pledges to protect the Congo Basin's forests made by African heads of state and French President Jacques Chirac at the Brazzaville 'forest Summit' today will be followed by actions (1).

"The time for talking is over. If we are to save the great forests of the Congo Basin, Africa needs action not words," warned Jean-Luc Roux, head of Greenpeace International's Political Unit.

The international environmental organisation said it will intensify its campaign in the coming months to get countries of the G8 and European Union to move from declarations to action and to intensify efforts to promote transparency, fight corruption and clean up the African timber trade.

Corruption and a lack of political will are increasingly being cited as the principal obstacles to protecting the Congo Basin's forest resources. Illegal logging in the region is widespread and often takes place with complete impunity. It results in the loss of precious flora and fauna, widespread social conflict and significant costs to state treasuries (2).

Over half of Africa's timber production ends up on the European market, mostly with no guarantee of legality or sustainability.

In October 2003, African governments and the international community committed in a ministerial conference in Cameroon (3) to work together to tackle these problems. Greenpeace now urges them to actively support political reform and capacity building in the forestry sector, with the active involvement of civil society.

"Poor governance and lack of transparency need to be tackled as a priority, to reduce poverty in the Congo Basin and protect and manage its forests in a sustainable manner," said Jean-Luc Roux.

Greenpeace is attending the Brazzaville summit as part of a global campaign to tackle the illegal timber trade. Greenpeace calls on the main consumer countries to stop fuelling forest destruction in Africa and make their own logging companies accountable. In Europe, Greenpeace is calling upon the European Union to develop new legislation that will prohibit illegal timber imports and fight the crime associated with it. A series of international meetings on illegal logging will take place in the coming months.

But fighting illegal logging can only be a first step. Alternatives to industrial logging in the Congo Basin must be actively explored. Logging has not helped reduce poverty in the region. On the contrary,it is contributing to removing the resources on which millions of people depend.

Notes: (1) The governments of the Congo Basin represented and coordinated at the regional level in COMIFAC (Central African Forest Commission) have developed a convergence plan to outline their activities to promote conservation and sustainable use of the central African rainforests. The summit in Brazzaville and the "Brazzaville declaration" are the result of a political process started in 1999 with the Yaoundé forest summit (Yaoundé declaration) where African heads of state agreed to address issues of conservation and sustainable forest management in the Congo Basin. (2). A study commissioned by the UK department for International Development (DFIF) - Evolution de l'exploitation des forêts du Cameroun: production nationale, exploitation illégale, perspectives; Nov. 2002 - estimated the loss of revenues due to illegal logging in Cameroon over a period of 5 years. The results were alarming: Cameroon lost about 75 million euro in tax revenue. The value of the stole timber in that period was estimated at 400 - 600 million euro.(3) AFLEG: African Forest Law Enforcement and GovernanceGreenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems and to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.