Today, dear reader, I am posting a call by the World Bank for more determined efforts, globally, to prosecute illegal loggers.
It couldn't have come at a better time for environmental activists in Ghana.
Indeed, there is an urgent need for all the political parties in Ghana, vying for power in the December 2012 elections, to tell Ghanaians, precisely how they intend to safeguard the remainder of our nation's forests.
They must show Ghanaians, in detail, precisely how they will go about preserving what is left of our nation's natural heritage - and above all, exactly how they intend to deal with the wealthy and well-connected criminal syndicates behind illegal logging in Ghana: and halt their criminal activities once and for all.
They must study the recommendations made by the World Bank - and incorporate it in their manifestos.
Incidentally, the World Bank statement is culled from today's edition of the e-newsletter of the Danish forest certification organisation, NEPCon
(Nature, Ecology and People Consult).
One hopes that it will catch the eye of Ghana's minister of lands and natural resources, and his ministerial colleague, the eastern regional minister - as well as officials of both ministries - and the top brass of the Forestry Commission of Ghana. Ditto the chief executives of all the District Assemblies in Ghana's forest belt. Please read on:
"World Bank: time to get tough on forest crime
3 April 2012
In recent years, a number of initiatives have been launched to address the problem of illegal logging, such as the EU FLEGT program addressing forest governance in tropical countries and initiatives in the US, EU and Australia to make possession or trade in illegal timber products in those markets unlawful.
Bringing forest criminals to justice
However, a recent World Bank report Justice for Forests points out that one of the most obvious means of regulating illegal logging is being largely ignored: law enforcement ensuring that those benefitting from illegal harvesting are convicted for their crimes.
Effective investigation, prosecution, imprisonment, and confiscation of illegal proceeds constitute the sort of actions needed in order to put forest criminals straight, according to the World Bank.
The report admits that current legal justice systems are generally ‘woefully ineffective’ and that there are only few examples of significant convictions involving illegal logging; however, legal frameworks such as the CITES convention and anti-money laundering regimes are in place and may be harnessesed to halt forest crime.
The report describes illegal harvesting as a complex of criminal offenses. Although full and accurate data about illegal logging do not exist (for obvious reasons), the report uses available estimates and figures to provide a glum picture of the scale of illegal harvesting:
“Every two seconds, across the world, an area of forest the size of a football field is clear-cut by illegal loggers. In some countries, up to 90 percent of all the logging taking place is illegal.
Estimates suggest that this criminal activity generates approximately US$10–15 billion annually worldwide —funds that are unregulated, untaxed, and often remain in the hands of organized criminal gangs”.
Follow the money
There are potentially many types of legal violation involved in illegal timber harvesting and trade, committed by different people along the timber’s route towards the final product on the marketplace.
For example, “the smuggling and transportation of logs are generally handled by parties distinct from those involved in the actual logging, and the whole process may be overseen by the heads of organized syndicates”.
The report points out that money laundering and assett confiscation regimes can be applied and help to identify, freeze, and confiscate proceeds from illegal logging, thus depriving the criminals of their expected benefits of the crime.
Applying anti-money launcering laws may result in “additional jail time or fines above those imposed for the underlying forest crime”.
By focusing on money laundering, crimes may also be uncovered more efficiently as financial institutions will be involved in detecting suspicious transactions.
Engaging legal and financial experts
The World Bank also recommends using a range of different methods, including electronic surveillance, undercover operations and witness protection, to uncover and prosecute forest crime.
The World Bank points out that there is a great need for awareness raising about illegal logging amongst the legal and financial sectors. These experts need to understand the scale of the issue and the importance of forest law enforcement.
As the report points out, “There is no substitute for honest, experienced, motivated, and creative investigators and prosecutors who have specialized knowledge of forest crime, and have available the time and resources required”.
End of culled World Bank statement from NepCon's e-newsletter.
It is a real tragedy for Ghana that our nation's forests are being decimated with such impunity, by greedy and powerful individuals, with political connections.
At any rate, one can only hope that those in charge of the Forestry Commission of Ghana, will begin to see the billions available for them to leverage, in the new carbon economy - via community carbon sequestration projects utilising forest reserves and other protected conservation areas, for example - rather than the relatively paltry sums timber companies currently pay them to gang-rape forests in Ghana (literally), as the future for forest management in Ghana.
Finally, for their information, I do know for a fact that Carbon Trading & Trust, who are due in Ghana in August 2012, and Greenheart Conservation, also due here this year, after their trip to Gabon (and before August 2012) for a scoping visit, will be happy to work with them, in that direction.
I would be happy to facilitate their coming together in a meeting, when both aforementioned teams visit Ghana - and for free too. With respect, one hopes they will be bold and creative enough, to take the initiative, and make contact with both organisations.
For the sake of present and future generations, Ghana really ought to tackle forest crime more intelligently and vigorously, nationwide. A word to the wise...
Tel (Powered by Tigo - the one mobile phone network in Ghana, which actually works!): + 233 (0) 27 745 3109.