New National Pact in Peru Aims to Stop Illegal Logging
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) welcomes today the launch of the multi-sector working group, known as the National Pact for Legal Wood, established to combat illegal logging in Peru. Comprised of nonprofit organizations and private sector agencies, the National Pact will attempt to address the problem of illegal logging and the associated trade of illegal timber through a multi-sector approach, as well as coordinated efforts among public and private sector, and civil society organizations.
The National Pact includes important commitments by all signatories, yet it will only contribute to solidifying legality in Peru’s forest if accompanied by the following government action:
• The creation of a transparent monitoring system, including documentation that accompanies the production and trade of all wood species in the country
• Implementation of sanctions and penalties for those that facilitate and carry out the laundering of illegal wood
• Titling of the 20 million hectares of forest land that Indigenous communities have claimed
• Coordination with other anti-illegal logging initiatives currently underway
Transparency and Monitoring
EIA’s report The Laundering Machine, based on a multi-year investigation, illustrates how a large portion of wood harvested and traded in Peru and internationally is illegally extracted from non-authorized areas and “laundered” with false legal documents known as forest transport guides. The same investigation exposed high levels of corruption in the production and approval of forest inventories, which serve as a base for forest management plans and forest transport guides. Evidence of the investigation showed that forest transport guides do not guarantee the legality of wood. Under current conditions, the only way to guarantee the legal origin of wood is in the field—verifying if wood is extracted from the area declared as point of origin. The Supervisory Agency for Forest and Wildlife Resources (OSINFOR) is currently undertaking this task, but only over limited areas, given a lack of resources and support.
If the National Pact is to successfully monitor the legal origin of wood, all public and private institutions that buy or sell wood must make information about the origin of their products public, including forest transport guides (complementary documents such as guias de remission y listas de trozas). This transparency should also be applied to all information about wood that enters or exits sawmills. Likewise, the export records (Declaración Arancelaria de Mercancías – DAM) should include copies of the aforementioned documents. This is the only way that state offices and civil society organizations will be able to cross reference this data with the results of field verification visits conducted by OSINFOR, which at this time is the only tool available to verify the legal origin of wood.
Initiatives underway to allow for the traceability of wood, such as the National Forest Information System (SNIF) and its control module the National Information and Control System (SNIC), must be designed and implemented based on the fact that legality of wood cannot be guaranteed through forest inventories presented by concessionaires, as these documents have high rates of falsification. Rampant falsification was confirmed, again this year, during the special “Amazon Operation,” conducted by Peru’s National Superintendence of Customs and Tax Administration (SUNAT), with the support of INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization.
Sanctions Against Laundering
While it is important to support legal production and trade, it is essential that effective sanctions are levied against actors operating illegally. Because of its scale, illegal wood cannot be inconspicuously traded. Without mechanisms to launder timber from illegal logging, there is no way to trade it. One of the most effective and efficient strategies to fight illegal logging is to eliminate the mechanisms used to launder wood.
All involved in the sale and laundering of illegal wood—beginning with corrupt forest consultants that produce and sign false forest inventories (which are the base for laundering illegal timber), and including concessionaires and businesses—should be identified, removed from Peru’s official “consultant list,” and investigated. Lastly, serious administrative and penal sanctions should be levied against those found guilty of fraud and falsification of documents. Despite the fact that OSINFOR has been sharing the names of public and private actors involved in the laundering of wood with national and regional officials and professional association leaders, there is still no information about any effective sanctions against them. To dissuade corruption and incentivize legality, clear actions are needed.
Pending Title of Indigenous Lands
Peruvian Indigenous communities, which have the recognized right to 12 million hectares of forest, have requested 20 million more hectares that are still in different stages of the recognition and titling process by the state. This delay in official legal recognition exposes Indigenous communities to invasion of their territories by illegal activities, including illegal logging that not only puts forests at risk but community members as well.
Peru has been identified as the fourth most dangerous place in the world for environmental defenders. At least 57 environmental defenders have been killed in the last ten years, including Edwin Chota and his three colleagues from Saweto who were killed by illegal loggers who they were trying to expel from their land. The lands in Saweto are still not titled despite the community having initiated the process 12 years ago.
Other initiatives in Peru to fight illegal logging exist and all should be coordinated to maximize resources and results.
An important state initiative is the Multi-Sector Commission Against Illegal logging, led by a representative of the Presidential Council of Ministers and consisting of representatives form: the Ministries of Agriculture, Interior, Defense, Natural Resources and the Public Ministry as well as representatives from the national Customs agency and the Commission for Andean and Amazonian Indigenous peoples and Afro-Peruvians. Another important initiative within Indigenous communities is the National Forest Monitoring System, (or Veeduría Forestal), implemented by the Associación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana (AIDESEP). Both require continued support from the Peruvian government and international community.
Read EIA's official statement on Peru's National Pact for Legal Wood here.