Participants’ Statement Regional Workshop on Improving Forest Law Compliance and Governance in Tropical West African Countries
17 July 2008
A regional Workshop on improving forest law compliance and governance in Tropical West Africa1 was held in Accra, Ghana, on 15 – 17 July 2008, sponsored by the Food
and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), and hosted by the Ghana Forestry Commission.
This event was attended by forest sector representatives with high levels of experience and responsibility from nine tropical West-African member countries of the Economic
Community of West African States (ECOWAS): Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo. A total of 62 participants,
including representatives from the government sector, civil society (community groups and NGOs), private companies, environmental bureaus, and regional and international
organizations, participated in the workshop and analyzed the problems and possible solutions related to illegal extraction of forest resources and governance in the management of
forest ecosystems in the West African region.
The workshop participants consider that:
The West African forest ecosystems, characterized by their rich biodiversity, their economic and social values and their ecological functions which provide environmental goods and
services to society, are seriously threatened by deforestation and degradation, including encroachment due to local livelihood concerns and conversion to commercial agricultural and
energy crops, illegal extraction of forest products and related trade.
All countries of the region, forest rich or forest poor, have highlighted the importance of the conservation of forest biodiversity and sustainable management of forests and of the
development of the forest sector as a socio-economic driver of development, and in particular to alleviate poverty.
The countries of the region are interested to enhance regional integration processes in order to address the conservation and sustainable management of their forest resources. The
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), supported by the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) could spearhead the design and expedient
implementation of a regional process aimed at improving forest law.
Different processes such as Voluntary Partnership Agreements promoted by the European Union’s FLEGT-process (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) and measures
undertaken by other tropical timber consuming countries can support such efforts. More involvement, sharing of responsibilities and benefit sharing with local communities, as well as
the involvement of civil society in monitoring forest operations would further contribute to forest law compliance.
The workshop participants recognize, inter alia, that:
Illegal extraction of forest resources, including timber, fuelwood (charcoal), medicinal plants and wildlife, and the associated trade of these products seriously affect the stability of
ecosystems. As a consequence, ecosystems become more vulnerable to climate change and degradation of soil and water resources, thus contributing to an increase in rural poverty
and endangering the quality of life of the population of the West-African region. They also contribute to a substantial loss in state revenue due to forgone taxes and fees. The
following issues need particular attention:
• The problem of transboundary illegal timber logging and trafficking across borders is a complex phenomenon in the sub-region and it is very difficult to assess its true dimension.
Post conflict situation exacerbates this problem in some of the countries of the sub-region.
• Most countries in the sub-region have legislation to regulate timber and NTFP harvesting and trade activities, but the enforcement capacities are weak and corruption is a major
obstacle for sustainable forest management.
• Illegal forest resources extraction and related trade at national and international levels are partly a consequence of cross-sectoral policy weaknesses, a lack of appropriation and
commitment of stakeholders with regard to forest policies and regulations, a deficient regulatory and legal framework, and limited institutional capacity for law enforcement, which
can lead to corruption.
• Excessive restrictions on legal access to forest resources (including unclear and insecure tenure, bureaucratic procedures, etc.) promote illegal extraction of forest resources and
encroachment of forest land.
• Illegal timber logging and trade, at large (forest concessions) and small scale (pitsawing) distort the timber market, negatively affecting the profitability and competitiveness of the
• The degree of policy and law implementation, knowledge and the use of technology, as well as the participation of local communities in monitoring forest law compliance varies
among the countries of the sub-region, hence the sharing of knowledge and experience is of great importance.
In view of the above, the participants of the workshop recommend the following:
A. Sectoral policy and legal framework
Governments in the West-African region and with the participation of civil society and other stakeholder interests should undertake the review of their forestry policies and laws and
where necessary introduce new forestry policies and laws taking into account obligations under international conventions as well as the need to address critical issues such as the
management of the domestic wood market (including fuel wood and charcoal) and controlling the use of equipment such as chainsaws/pitsaws.
Governments in the region should improve coordination (intra and inter country) among law enforcement agencies.
Governments should support the equitable distribution of the benefits from forest products to all key stakeholders so as to encourage legal compliance and sustainable forest
Governments should put in place systems and mechanisms, e.g. codes of conduct for forestry professionals and practitioners, incentives for enforcement personnel and checks and
balances to prevent illegal practices of licensed logging companies among other measures, so as to reduce corruption in the forestry sector.
Governments should through participatory processes harmonize land tenure, tree tenure, land use and planning regimes so as to improve access to and rational use of forest
resources. This process should also extend to the payment of adequate compensation in cases of state appropriation of forest land.
Governments in the region should streamline fiscal regimes in the forestry sector.
B. Institutional structures and social involvement
- Institutional structures
Promote investments by governments, international organizations and the private sector to fight against illegal timber logging and trade and to improve governance in the sector.
Governments should provide the enabling environment for the financing of forestry activities. This should extend to exploring alternative sources of funding such as carbon credits,
endowment funds, and putting an economic value on forest products and resources.
Governments need to promote research (including the provision of adequate funds) and encourage the use of appropriate technology, e.g. Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
and put in place effective information management systems.
In each country, increase social involvement in managing forests:
Establish a mechanism to empower local communities in the management of local forestry resources in order to improve their living conditions.
Provide the communities with all the necessary information regarding forest harvesting activities and any other actions related to the management of forest resources that may be
authorized in their areas of interest.
Establish a multi-stakeholder platform to ensure access to information and improve capacities of civil society to meet emerging challenges in forest management and trade.
Disseminate legal texts related to illegal timber logging and trade, including information about sanctions to be imposed.
Establish formal structures that ensure broader participation of all stakeholders including civil society in the monitoring and evaluation processes as a means of promoting
transparency and accountability in forestry resources extracting and trade.
Promote and increase the participation of local communities and local governments:
o in the discussion and development of public forest policies.
o in forest management and the benefits derived thereof; and
o in the community-based control of illegal activities.
C. Technology and information dissemination
Increase, at the level of each country in the sub region, the capacities of the institutions and departments to manage an adequate database, including, inter alia, through satellite
monitoring/GIS, inventories and improved forestry statistics in order to adequately report on the management of forest resources.
Strengthen the management of information systems through collaboration with a variety of institutions, including NGOs and private sector, to obtain adequate and updated
information on the management and monitoring of the forest resource base.
Promote technical assistance and the transfer of successful technologies and experiences between the countries of the region. Develop a regional initiative to facilitate the adoption
of principles, criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.
Request support of international organizations, such as ITTO and FAO to support regional organizations, such as ECOWAS/CEDEAO to harmonize and strengthen capacities in
institutional information system, including regulations, forest inventories and mapping, forest statistics and trade and economic indicators.
In order to promote transparency and effective monitoring systems in the forestry sector, there is a need to introduce and implement wood tracking systems in the timber producing
countries of the sub region.
D. Recommendations at the regional level
In respect to Policy and Legal Framework
• Create a regional (ECOWAS/ NEPAD level) platform to
o allow for periodic (e.g. yearly) multi-stakeholder discussions on forests and forest resources (ECOWAS FLEGT initiative)
o share ideas and information to strengthen capacities within the region
o support coordination between law enforcement agencies across borders
o promote bi-lateral agreements within the region; and request ITTO and FAO to support such a platform.
ECOWAS/ UEMOA to create an enabling financial environment i.e. through lowinterest loans to support private sector development in the region.
Promote regional trade and fair prices based on legality (FLEG-T) standards developed within the region and encourage countries to move towards forest certification and sustainable
Promote bilateral cooperation between countries in the region so as to address transboundary issues related to illegal regional trade in forest products.
ECOWAS/UEMOA should take the lead in promoting and supporting a viable market for forest products by developing a fair pricing system and standard/grading rules for forest
ECOWAS should be encouraged to undertake a study on forest law enforcement and governance in conflict and post conflict situations and recommend a regional approach to deal
with the situation
In respect to Institutional structures and participation of civil society
Promote the sharing of experience, information, training and standardization of international trade procedures; including regional cooperation in the framework of the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Institutionalize the participation of civil society (within the region) in regional platforms on forests through e.g. periodic (yearly) forum for civil society to share information,
Support capacity building for forest law compliance and governance in member countries, e.g. by supporting database management and forest inventories.
In respect to Technology and information
Develop or establish a regional hub for information on forests (forest resources) and forest product trade which provides secure access to information by all stakeholders
ECOWAS/ NEPAD promote the sharing of technology and information within the region (academic institutions, for example by using Nigeria space technology).