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.
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid