Illegal logging and the international trade in illegally logged timber is a major problem for many timber-producing countries. Illegal logging degrades forests, costs governments billions of dollars, promotes corruption, and funds armed conflict. It impedes sustainable development in some of the poorest countries of the world.
Global Witness’s first campaign looked at how ‘conflict timber’ was funding the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Our investigations led to the Thai-Cambodia border being closed, and ultimately helped bring about the demise of the genocidal regime. We also helped to cut off funds from the illegal timber industry to Charles Taylor, who was using them to pay for his war in Liberia. Later investigations led to the closure of the China-Burma border to timber traffic in 2006.
Global Witness is continuing to investigate and expose illegal logging and corruption in the forest sector. Our work in countries including Madagascar and Liberia involves coordinating with local civil society to monitor and expose illegal activities and unsustainable trade.
One way to tackle illegal logging is for consumer countries to crack down on the trade. Recently, some countries have taken positive steps to reduce demand. Most notably, the US Lacey Act was amended in 2008 to make the import or trade in illegally produced timber a criminal offence in the US. Though not as strict as the US law, the EU also recently passed its own legislation, requiring the initial importer to the EU to prove the timber’s legality.
Comparable legal measures are urgently needed in all significant consumer countries – particularly Japan and China – to ensure a consistent international approach to the problem of the trade in illegal timber.