News / Africa

Report: Shadow Permits Plague African Forests

A hacked stump stands in the midst of a logged area in eastern Sierra Leone Apr. 22, 2012.
A hacked stump stands in the midst of a logged area in eastern Sierra Leone Apr. 22, 2012.
A new report from the environmental watchdog Global Witness says networks of political elites, forestry officials and logging companies are using small-scale permits to circumvent regulations in West and Central Africa. The group says the so-called “shadow permits” put the European Union and the United States at risk of importing illegal timber. 
 
“Shadow permits” were originally intended for small enterprises and community forests, but according to the report they have been co-opted for commercial purposes through corrupt means. 
 
The most dramatic example was documented last year in Liberia, where  “private use permits” were issued on a massive scale, allowing logging companies to claim more than 40 percent of the country’s forests during a two-year period. In addition to Liberia, the new Global Witness report examines the use of shadow permits in Ghana, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo.
 
David Young is team leader for forest sector transparency at Global Witness. He says that, although the proportional scale of the problem was biggest in Liberia, the permits also pose a grave threat to the other three countries.
 
“The area involved proportionately in Liberia is much greater than in the other countries, so it was a much greater threat to Liberia’s forests. But the systemic nature of them in the other countries, if not controlled, could lead to similar destruction," he said. 
 
Investigations into the problem led Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to reaffirm a moratorium on the permits and she also vowed to investigate officials who had been involved in issuing the questionable authorizations. But Young says it is important that she follows through.
 
"The good news in Liberia is that the president issued an executive decree in early 2013 to completely close down the private use permits, and she has promised criminal investigations and prosecutions where necessary. But that was back in January. We’re now in May and we haven’t seen much progress in that investigation and those prosecutions," he said. 
 
The response in other countries has been similarly lackluster. Although  individual contracts have been cancelled, Young says the process of awarding shadow permits is still shrouded in secrecy, meaning that abuses can recur. The secrecy also means that by the time abuses are detected by non-governmental organizations or journalists, much of the damage has already been done.
 
“While governments do respond when you put them on the spot and close down individual contracts in the immediate response, the longer term problem about lack of transparency around contract allocation continues. And, we see that in pretty much every single country," he said. 
 
The European Union Timber Regulation went into effect last month, barring the trading of illegal timber on European markets.
 
In addition to calling for a transparent allocation process, the report urges the EU and the United States to consider any timber logged under shadow permits to be high risk and potentially illegal.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More