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Breakthrough Agreement Will Combat Illegal Timber Trade in Congo

The Dzanga-Ndoki National Park and Dzanga-Sangha dense forest special reserve are located in the rainforest in the south-western part of the Central African Republic, Congo Basin. They comprise a total area of more than 4 000 km2 (more than 400 000 hectar
Six African countries -- along with timber industry representatives -- have agreed to jointly combat the illegal trade of timber and logging in the Congo Basin.

The Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and Gabon, adopted the Brazzaville Declaration at an international forum held in Congo’s capital Brazzaville.

The move is hailed by the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, as an unprecedented commitment towards the sustainability and legal development of wood in the region.

The FAO said the Congo Basin contains the world’s second largest tropical forest with an area covering over 300 million hectares.

It’s also a major supplier of illegal timber costing governments some ten-billion dollars per year in lost tax revenues worldwide.

FAO senior forestry expert Olman Serrano said the Congo declaration is unique because it is the first document to come out of a dialogue between governments, private sector, and civil society. He said getting the private sector to commit to the agreement was key in solidifying the declaration.

“Promoting policies and recommendations to processes without involving those that are actually responsible for forest management, and forest utilization, hasn’t been perhaps very efficient. Now that makes it quite unique-- that the private sector is involved and also committed in the sense that they want to not only continue a positive trend [by] preparing management plans and combating illegal logging, but also involving communities in the management of publicly owned forests in the Congo Basin,” explained Serrano.

He said it is hard to know the exact loss of revenue.

“We see that in the Congo Basin, more than 80% of the value added comes from forestry and logging. A lot of it is illegal because either it is coming from an informal sector (and hasn’t been integrated in the whole value chain), or it comes from companies that irresponsibly promote illegal logging and illegal trade,” said Serrano.

While the Brazzaville Declaration is not a legally binding instrument, Serrano pointed out that there’s hope the agreement will be used as a guideline for future activities in the Congo Basin, and that it will be recognized by the international community as a standard to follow in the timber industry.