Timber on Manus Island Papua New Guinea 2020
Timber on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, from our 2020 report Bending the Truth. Credit: Ed Davey/Global Witness

Governments of forest-rich countries routinely flout their own rules on forest protection, striking secret deals for access to forested land. Yet these abuses don’t happen in isolation. They depend on international markets that accept illegal timber and other products associated with deforestation.

Efforts to halt deforestation are pitched against powerful forces. Governments of forest-rich countries routinely flout their own rules on forest protection, striking secretive deals with companies for access to forested land. Often these companies are backed up by state or privately hired security forces.

These abuses don’t happen in isolation. They depend on international markets that accept products associated with deforestation, an international financial system that facilitates offshore transactions, and a global network of lawyers, accountants and PR firms that launder money and reputations. This cast of facilitators throws up some surprises too. The logging industry has received millions of dollars in aid money, having convinced donors that the dismantling of forests is good for development.

For decades, Global Witness has worked to expose the vested interests at the heart of the global forest economy and dispel its myths. Our exposés have long shown the toxic legacy of industrial forest clearance in Peru, Papua New Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cambodia: ecosystems and communities are torn apart, traditional forest livelihoods vanish, and developing countries’ natural wealth is annexed to international investors and a corrupt elite.

We have long tackled  the demand-side of deforestation, working to ensure rules are in place to keep tainted products out of our ports and off our shop floors.  We campaigned hard for the introduction in 2013 of the EU Timber Regulation and its effective enforcement, which makes the import of illegal timber into the EU a criminal offence. We are maintaining pressure on China, the world’s biggest timber hub, to do the same.

In recent years, we have re-focussed our forests campaign towards stemming the supply of cash to irresponsible business driving deforestation in climate critical forests. As part of this work we are campaigning for the EU and UK to adopt legislation We continue to campaign for the EU to adopt legislation to identify, mitigate and prevent deforestation risks.

Falsified bosque locale

“Buyers in Good Faith”

How timber exporters are complicit in plundering Peru’s Amazon
Drone footage shows rainforests in the Pomio District of East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea slated to be cleared for oil palm.

Stained Trade

We followed the 9,000-mile journey of rainforest timber from Papua New Guinea, where illegal logging is rampant, through China to the U.S.