No Compensation for Timber Traffickers
Path Cleared Towards Better Forest Governance in Madagascar
Sochi (Russian Federation) – The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) welcomes the unanimous rejection of the proposed payoff * mechanism to Malagasy rosewood traffickers, agreed upon by the governing body of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES Standing Committee) at its meeting in Sochi. This mechanism was at the heart of a “Business Plan” presented for adoption by Madagascar in an effort to dispose of what is likely the largest and most valuable timber stockpile on Earth – estimated at more than two million precious timber logs. Madagascar had proposed to pay timber barons over US $7 million for recovery of this stolen timber by the government.
During multi-day discussions and extensive deliberations over the Malagasy rosewood and ebony stockpiles, Committee members and observer Parties repeatedly challenged the proposed disposal process, and raised concerns about the fragile and corrupt forest governance in Madagascar. Visibly concerned by the current situation, the Committee recommended Madagascar consider the institution of an Independent Observer – as is the case in the Republic of Congo and Indonesia – which would follow each step of the audit and disposal process, and insisted on robust financial oversight to prevent embezzlement and misuse of funds. A specifically designated fund could ensure support for more forest conservation.
The Standing Committee decisively rejected the compensation mechanism that had been proposed by Madagascar, which aimed to pay alleged “owners” of the illegal timber in order to gain access to the timber stockpiles. In the joint report Paying Off Traffickers: A Costly and Dangerous Precedent, the Alliance Voahary Gasy (AVG), the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Transparency International (TI) reveal that Madagascar’s move was driven by fear of violent reprisals by timber mafia bosses who are threatening social unrest if the government were to seize the logs without compensation. All of this is occurring against the backdrop of tense upcoming presidential elections later this year and parliamentary elections in 2019.
EIA Executive Director, Alexander von Bismarck, who has personally investigated illegal logging in Madagascar said, “Madagascar and the countries gathered in Sochi have successfully avoided a worst case scenario. Instead Madagascar appears to embark on a new path towards improved forest governance, for which we congratulate it and pledge our continued support to this end.”
* Text approved by the Standing Committee at SC70 without the section in brackets marked in yellow.
Susanne Breitkopf, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-390-5586
Lindsay Moran, email@example.com, 202-253-0006