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Strengthening forest law enforcement and governance through independent monitoring

Illegal logging is usually defined as logging in violation of national laws. Although it has mainly been associated with environmental concerns in the past, the large sums of money involved and significant State revenue losses are now widely known and acknowledged as serious problems.
REM's approach focuses on governance, law enforcement and compliance and provides a systematic documentation of where opportunities for corruption arise in the application of procedures and legislation from the field through administration to the judiciary.

A few concrete results resulting from REM IM-FLEG work in Cameroon (2005-2009)

  • Increased government surveillance of forest titles (32% in 2005, 45% in 2007)
  • Increased quantity and quality of government mission reports, which now feature maps and GPS coordinates
  • Increased fine collection (41% in 2007 – up from only 20% in previous years)
  • Minimum threshold fixed for negotiated fines (2006)
  • Activities stopped in 15 irregular forest titles (2007)
  • New procedures for registration (2007 ) and delivery (2009) of small titles following IM-FLEG reports of large-scale illegalities. Suspension of 14 small titles (2008); Creation of a commission to analyse volumes of timber illegally cut in those titles between 2007 and 2009, to recover unpaid taxes
  • Diplomatic community engaged to add much needed leverage to support governance reform (2008-9)
  • System put in place to track documents of exploitation, processing and transport following IM-FLEG reports of systematic abuses (2008)

Investigations in Cameroon - old growth forests
are prized targets for the logging industry
REM dedicates time to analyse findings and provide recommendations to support the improvement of these systems. The REM model for Independent Monitoring of Forest Law Enfor cement and Governance (IM-FLEG) helps to tackle illegal logging in two fundamental ways:

1. By conducting field investigations, often in collaboration with forest authorities and/or civil society, to collect reliable data on logging illegalities and governance strengths and weaknesses

2. Establish a platform allowing the government, donors, and civil society to review field investigation results and identify specific actions to take

By engaging the government in the process of reform using credible field data, a transparent and productive relationship between actors is established paving the way for real reform. For more information on REM’s approach to independent monitoring click here.

We are currently implementing IM-FLEG projects in Cameroon and Republic of Congo and will be launching IM-FLEG projects in Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania in 2010. See our Projects page for details.

Engaging national civil society in IM-FLEG

Civil society trainees learn GPS
Brazzaville Regional workshop, Oct 2009
As mentioned above, field investigations are often conducted in collaboration with national civil society. This is a reflection of our commitment to build the technical and institutional capacity of civil society to take a leading role in IM-FLEG. Many unknowns remain regarding exactly what a ‘leading role’ entails in this case: Is it feasible, in light of political realities, for a national NGO to be lead a credible IM-FLEG program considering their relative vulnerability to external pressures? Should IM-FLEG be led by an international organization to preserve impartiality?

To address these and other unknowns, REM is working with Forests Monitor in the Republic of Congo to implement the first-ever programme that aims to establish national civil society as a leader in IM-FLEG. This programme has two main phases:

1. Phase 1 (2007-2009): developing technical capacity via a civil society shadow team training program; developing institutional capacity by creating a new NGO composed of shadow team members that specialises in IM-FLEG

2. Phase 2 (2009 – 2011): transition period where the IM NGO gradually takes on a leading role in more IM-FLEG activities, including full implementation of investigatory field missions and working with senior authorities and international donors to establish a plan of action to improve governance

For more details, please see Projects.

A note on IM-FLEG & FLEGT

Click here to download clarification on IM-FLEG/FLEGT Audit roles

IM-FLEG should not be confused with FLEGT (T is for a trade) which is an initiative launched in 2003 by the European Union that aims to employ market incentives to combat illegal logging. It is based on a legality licensing system – only legally sourced timber and timber products will be allowed to enter the EU market as stipulated in the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between the EU and the timber producing country.

IM-FLEG will help ensure that government commitments made through VPAs translate into real action in the detection and suppression of illegal logging, recovery of taxes and effective sanction of companies or individuals breaching national legislation. IM-FLEG can provide FLEGT auditors with accurate field data to cross check claims by government and private sector sources. An IM-FLEG online database, currently being developed by REM will allow auditors and other stakeholders to easily compile and analyse field investigation data. The Republic of Congo, where REM has been implementing an IM-FLEG project since 2007, recently signed a VPA with the EU in May 2009. We are currently developing an extension to the IM-FLEG project that will be the first example of how IM-FLEG can contribute to FLEGT. Our current IM-FLEG project already verifies 28 out of the 67 FLEGT legality indicators and aims to expand to an additional 23 in the next phase.

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