Press Release / June 8, 2001

The Credibility Gap and the Need to Bridge It - Increasing the Pace of Forestry Reform

Global Witness will launch its latest briefing document “The Credibility Gap and the Need to Bridge It - Increasing the Pace of Forestry Reform” on 8 June 2001, before the upcoming Cambodia Consultative Group meeting in Tokyo.

The “Credibility Gap” gives an overview of the major forest related issues and incidents of illegal logging in Cambodia over the past year and examines the role of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) in the reform process. The report highlights steps that the government could take that would require considerable political will, but little in terms of resources. Such steps include requiring officials to declare financial and familial links to the forest industry, publishing Forestry Department procedures and increasing the public availability of information.

“In many respects, the RGC is the driving force behind the reform process, but lack of progress in certain key areas could undermine the government's credibility” said Jon Buckrell of Global Witness.

The formation of the Forest Crimes Monitoring Unit, the commitment to passing a new forest law and to establishing new concession agreements and management plans by September 2001 should be applauded. However, the government is not addressing corruption and lack of transparency in the sector.

"The Consultative Group meeting presents the government with an ideal opportunity to make a commitment to address corruption and to increase transparency in government departments; this could dramatically increase the pace of forestry reform" said Buckrell.

The levels of anarchic logging and the quantity of illegally exported timber have decreased dramatically over the past two years but the 2000/2001 cutting season has seen a significant rise in illegal logging by the legal concessionaires. The briefing document details evidence of illegal logging by the Chinese company Everbright, and describes the joint government/Global Witness inspection of Everbright's plywood factory and the subsequent cover-up by Everbright. "The authorities could have clearly demonstrated their commitment to further reform by taking strong action against Everbright in January, but chose not to." "Having rid the country of the worst excesses of anarchic logging, the next target is to crackdown on illegal logging by the concessionaires" said Buckrell.

The report concludes that there is a need to move beyond simply correcting the bad decisions of the past and to create a vision for the forest sector based on multiple-use and sustainable principles. Pressure and support of the RGC must be maintained to increase the pace of forestry reform.