forest photo flipped


The world’s forests are rapidly disappearing, gutted of timber or cleared for crops. This mass extinction event is making a handful of corrupt individuals and companies very rich. Read more

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. Communities are turfed off land they’ve lived on for generations, some are even killed defending it.

These abuses don’t happen in isolation. Banks and investors around the world finance companies profiting from deforestation, as our briefing Money to Burn clearly shows. They also 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 throw 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.

Global Witness works to expose the vested interests at the heart of the global forest economy and dispel its myths. Our exposés consistently show the toxic legacy of industrial forest clearance – how 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 also tackle the demand-side of deforestation, working to ensure that 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 for its effective enforcement, for example, which makes the import of illegal timber into the EU a criminal offence. And we are maintaining pressure on China, the world’s biggest timber hub, to do the same.  

We are also campaigning for the EU to adopt legislation to require companies and investors to conduct due diligence throughout their entire supply chain and investments to ensure that all investments and products placed on the EU market are sustainable and do not cause adverse environmental impacts like deforestation. And we want stronger rules for key financial markets funding the companies involved in deforesting climate-critical forests.

Perhaps the best way of protecting forests, however, is to ensure that the people who live in them are equipped with the rights, knowledge and resources to do so effectively. Global Witness works with local groups to strengthen forest communities’ rights to land and forests, and ensure they can play an active role in monitoring abuses like land grabbing and illegal logging and conversion of forests for agriculture, as well as having the access to information about the financiers, companies and shady figures behind the destruction of their forests.