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“War on Timber” in Gabon: It Is Time to Win It

Time to Win the War on Timber in Gabon

Over the past months, Gabonese authorities have quietly but decisively started to crack down on illegal logging and related trade in their forests. Their efforts will be broadcast today – as we celebrate International Day of Forests, in the documentary Green Eden: the War on Timber. The film presents the level of illegality that has plagued the Gabonese timber sector in great detail. It also presents how organized the “timber mafia” is, and how pervasive the corruption has been for years.

Illegally harvested timber from Gabon is ultimately shipped and sold by traffickers to the main international markets: China, the EU and the US. The documentary follows a team of determined government officials who are deeply committed to and engaged in cracking down on the timber mafia in the country, and who are leading what could be the most important government–led transformative change in the Congo Basin forest in recent history.

Will these few resolute and mission-focused officials prove successful in putting an end to a system that involves the highest spheres of power and that has gone unchallenged for years? While their efforts show tremendous promise, the outcome is still far from certain. What can be said right now is that consumer countries must offer critical support in stopping the illegal trade in order to bolster the Gabonese effort and help them to achieve their ambitious goals.

Illegal logging driven by international trade is not a “curse” of tropical countries, but rather the result of an inadequate international market structure – lack of transparency, immense unchecked volumes, and multi-continent supply chains – that more often than not reward the bad guys or, at least, allows their crimes to persist unsanctioned.

To change the deal, demand side actors have to step up. In regulated markets like the EU and the US, importers have to make sure their supply chain is free of the companies sanctioned by Gabonese authorities. Competent authorities should take responsibility to make sure this is the case and, if not, apply real sanctions with real consequences, for real crimes. In unregulated markets, like China, specific bilateral cooperation with the Gabonese authorities should be developed or consolidated in order to guarantee that the timber unloaded in Chinese ports is of legal origin.

Bilateral verification mechanisms, developed between China and African countries under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), should be replicated and amplified. Linking processes and mechanisms like this with the robust enforcement efforts demonstrated on the ground by Gabon are exactly what is needed to stop illegal trade and give the forests a chance. Work like this offers real inspiration and hope as we reflect on this International Day of Forests.

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Recent Reports

Toxic Trade: Forest Crime in Gabon and the Republic of Congo and Contamination of the US Market
03/25/2019
For four years, EIA has investigated the logging sector in the Congo and Gabon, countries that together account for approximately 60 percent of the total area under forest management in the Congo Basin. EIA’s findings reveal that one of the largest and most influential Chinese timber companies in Africa, the “Dejia Group,” has built its business model on bribery and crime.
Commerce Toxique
03/24/2019
Pendant quatre ans, l’Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) a enquêté sur le secteur de l’exploitation forestière au Gabon et en République du Congo, deux pays qui représentent environ 60% de la super cie totale allouée à l’exploitation forestière dans le bassin du Congo.

Recent Press Releases

Toxic Trade: Forest Crime in Gabon and the Republic of Congo and Contamination of the US Market
03/25/2019
For four years, EIA has investigated the logging sector in the Congo and Gabon, countries that together account for approximately 60 percent of the total area under forest management in the Congo Basin. EIA’s findings reveal that one of the largest and most influential Chinese timber companies in Africa, the “Dejia Group,” has built its business model on bribery and crime.
New LEED Credit Rewards Timber Transparency and Traceability
03/19/2019
New LEED credit rewards timber transparency and traceability

Recent Videos

În Spatele Scenelor: Cum se ascund distrugerile pădurilor antice din Europa
07/26/2018
În Spatele Scenelor: Cum se ascund distrugerile pădurilor antice din Europa
Behind The Scenes: How Log Yards Hide the Destruction of Europe’s Ancient Forests
07/13/2018
Behind the Scenes takes detailed look at how the Austrian timber giant Holzindustrie Schweighofer, one of the largest wood processors in Romania, continues to fuel the destruction of Europe’s last old growth forests, in spite of five years of pledges not to source timber from national parks or protected areas.
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