News / Asia

Forest Sustainability Group Considers Loosening Membership Restrictions

One of the world's top forest management groups says it is reviewing a policy that could loosen its membership requirements to admit more companies that have recently cleared natural forests.  The controversial move is backed by some environmentalists who say the move is necessary to curb deforestation in countries such as Indonesia.

Unlikely alliance

In an unlikely alliance, environmentalists and forest-related businesses voted on Friday to review criteria set in 1994 that would allow the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to grant certification to companies recently involved in deforestation for pulp and paper, a driver of much of the plantation activity in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The council, a group of business heads and environmentalists that is commonly recognized by its FSC logo on timber and other wood products, certifies that products bearing its logo do not contribute to the destruction of the world's forests. The FSC currently will not certify plantations that have engaged in deforestation since 1994.

Critics say loosening FSC membership standards could threaten the council's credibility and possibly lead to more forest loss in countries with weak forest monitoring.  But supporters say the FSC will have a greater impact if it includes companies that have cleared forests for plantation activity.

Vital change

Aditya Bayunanda, a coordinator with the World Wildlife Fund Indonesia, says the change is vital to curbing deforestation in a country facing widespread forest loss.

"The current '94 rule has practically excluded a lot of the plantations that have been developed, and we cannot use the FSC certification as a tool to promote their sustainability and to move them forward towards it because it's not accessible," noted Bayunanda.

According to figures compiled by the Indonesia National Council on Climate Change, Indonesia could lose more than 20 percent of its remaining forests by 2030 if businesses continue to clear forests. FSC members say certification pushes companies to reduce their impact on the forests, but to be most effective it has to resolve long-running issues and controversies surrounding plantation practices.

The motion passed on Friday reopens debate on what kind of land should be certified, in what condition and whether land that might be converted would still be given FSC approval. Those who voted against the motion say it is too broad, and provides little guidance for how to improve forest management, which is at the heart of the FSC's activities.

Certification

The FSC certifies forest-related businesses based on strict standards that must meet environmental, social and economic responsibility criteria. Its seal is supposed to guarantee that wood and paper products are harvested sustainably.

This kind of certification is increasingly important in markets where concerned consumers want to know their products carry a commitment to environmental responsibility.

Alistair Monument, Asia Director of the Forest Stewardship Council, says certification creates incentives for sustainability.

"I think by having a very strong system and a very strong market pull it creates the incentive for those companies to change," he noted.  "And we're seeing that now where these big forest management companies are looking at ways of getting into the market, otherwise they're going to lose out financially."

Forest activists say that while certification does reduce the amount of forest that is cut, it alone is not enough to ensure sustainable forest management.

Credibility


In recent years, they have raised concerns about the credibility of the auditors who certify timber operations. Others worry that in countries like Indonesia, where deforestation results from corruption and poor law enforcement, certification matters little.

Less than 1 million of Indonesia's 120 million hectares of forest are FSC certified, and several of the biggest paper companies operating in the country have had their certification revoked.

In 2007 the council dropped Asia Pulp and Paper under pressure from groups that accused it of large-scale rainforest destruction. The environmental advocacy group Greenpeace recently targeted the company again for supplying Mattel with fibers from destroyed forests for use in Barbie packaging.

Conflict

Last year, the FSC also dropped paper company APRIL for failing to resolve conflicts with local forest communities.

Clashes between corporations and local communities over rights to forest land are common. Critics accuse schemes aimed at improving forest management of ignoring the voices of local communities and failing to understand their needs.

"It's not a question of understanding, it's a question of whether the indigenous community has been fully invited or been fully involved in this negotiation and discussion," explained Nicholas Mujah who represents an indigenous Dayak community in Malaysian Sarawak.

Mujah says the FSC has not prioritized the social element of its negotiations, which it highlights as part of the democratic nature of its operations. Many of those who opposed the motion passed on Friday voiced their concern with any standard that could allow the expansion of large-scale deforestation.

Despite the criticism, Mujah does mention that so far the FSC is the only mechanism that requires companies to engage with local communities before they can gain certification.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid