A new project aims to increase transparency in the forestry sector, an area long plagued by corruption and mismanagement.
The Forest Sector Transparency Report Card, launched by Global Witness, an environmental NGO, assesses 70 transparency indicators, evaluating the public availability of land use maps, logging contracts, and other forestry-related information in Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia and Peru. The effort will eventually be expanded to other countries.
The report card found forest sector transparency in the four countries to be “generally poor”, with the public often kept in the dark about logging and mining projects. It warns that lack of transparency in the sector could cause the U.N. REDD mechanism, a climate change mitigation scheme that would pay tropical countries to protect their forests, to founder.
Rainforest logs in Gabon. Photo by R. Butler
“While [REDD] 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,” said Global Witness in a statement.
Speaking at an event hosted by Chatham House in London last Thursday, David Young, a forest campaigner for Global Witness, said the report card shows where transparency in the forestry sector can be improved.
“This report card highlights best practice while also exposing the ways in which vested interests can secretly control and siphon off profit from a nation’s forests,” he said. “It is designed to be a tool for civil society members to put pressure on their governments to address failures of democracy and push for positive change.”
“The report card provides a useful tool for civil society to improve their analysis of the issues and prioritize strategies. This is crucial to help them engage with government and the private sector and push for greater access to information and policy processes.”
Global Witness will be releasing the complete 2009 Annual Transparency Report later this year on www.foresttransparency.info