Briefing Document / Dec. 13, 2010

Making the Forest Sector Transparent: Annual Transparency Report 2009

Global Witness is pleased to announce the publication in print form of our 2009 Annual Transparency Report for the forest sector, which is now available from our dedicated project website.

The innovative report card is the result of a collaborative project with campaign groups in Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia and Peru. The first of its kind, the report card assesses 70 transparency indicators across 15 themes ranging from ‘Are forest land use / ownership maps available?’ to ‘Are logging contracts made public?’ and ‘Is there a Freedom of Information Act?’.

Highlights of the report are:

  • Forest sector transparency is generally poor. The main problem areas relate to the way key decisions are made in the capital city, and the limited amount of information that reaches those most directly affected by forestry deals. Only one country has a Freedom of Information law.
  • Particular weaknesses exist in relation to secretive mining contracts and other extra-sectoral initiatives running roughshod over forest protection measures. This reflects the greater economic and political power of mining authorities compared to those overseeing forests. None of the four countries have a strategic process to assess priorities between development options.
  • Insecure land and forest tenure comes through as a major issue.
  • On the positive side, transparency is increasingly recognised as an issue and discussed openly, and there are elements of good practice in each country which could easily be replicated. These include Human Rights Commissions covering environmental issues, revisions of forest laws towards more disclosure and transparency, and greater recognition of the role of civil society in holding duty-bearers to account.
  • An important emerging issue is the value of forests in the context of climate change mitigation. While this offers an opportunity for forest preservation, there is very little legal commitment to transparency for environmental services and carbon deals, and often the rights to these goods are disputed.

The data for 2009 was first publicised on www.foresttransparency.info in January 2010 during an illegal logging update meeting hosted by Chatham House in London. A presentation on the launch is available here.  To monitor and encourage increased transparency in the sector, the report card process is being repeated annually and expanded to cover other countries, and new data for 2010 will be available on www.foresttransparency.info from February 2011.

Please contact the Forest Transparency team at Global Witness for further details.

David Young, [email protected]

Katherine Thomson, +44 20 7492 5889; [email protected]