Exotic species of hardwood timber harvested from Ghana's rain forests, at a sawmill in Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region in Ghana. Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images.Exotic species of hardwood timber harvested from Ghana's rain forests, at a sawmill in Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region in Ghana. Photo by Getty Images.

Brazil, Ghana and Indonesia have all made progress towards reducing illegal logging and improving forest governance, but challenges remain in each country. A fourth country, Laos, has recently begun to prioritize this issue, but its efforts are yet to bear fruit. These findings are presented in a series of new reports by Chatham House. 

Alison Hoare, Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House said: 'Illegal logging is a global problem that results in deforestation, social conflict and the loss of government revenues. Each of the producer countries surveyed in these reports have made efforts to address the problem, but many of the underlying governance issues require long-term, continuous engagement. It’s important that Europe and other consumer countries continue to support the reform process.'

The reports, which are part of a series on 'Indicators of Illegal Logging and Related Trade’, show that implementation of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) between the EU and Indonesia and the EU and Ghana resulted in significant improvements in forest governance in both countries, including clarification of forest legislation, increased participation in decision-making and greater transparency in the sector. 

These developments have contributed to a decline in illegal logging but some more intractable problems have yet to be effectively addressed, including high levels of corruption and a lack of understanding of, and control over, the small-scale sector and domestic markets. 

In Brazil, progress in tackling illegal logging has slowed in recent years. Considerable effort has been put into law enforcement, but this is being undermined by limited resources as well as by flaws in the country’s timber tracking system, leading to the laundering of illegal timber. Complex legal requirements and a lack of support for small landholders have also contributed to high levels of illegal timber from these sources.

Laos has taken some steps to tackle illegal logging, which is prevalent in the country, but these remain limited to date. Fundamental governance reforms will be needed to improve transparency and accountability in the country’s forest sector. The country’s engagement in VPA negotiations with the EU indicates a willingness to address this.

Hoare: 'In all four countries, agriculture, mining and infrastructure development are driving increased deforestation and illegal logging, and risk undermining progress already made. Further efforts are needed to extend governance improvements to these sectors.'

Editor's notes: 

Read the reports:

Illegal Logging and Related Trade: The Response in Ghana by Alison Hoare

Illegal Logging and Related Trade: The Response in Lao PDR by Jade Saunders

Illegal Logging and Related Trade: The Response in Brazil by Laura Wellesley

Illegal Logging and Related Trade: The Response in Indonesia by Alison Hoare and Laura Wellesley


For more information please contact Alison Hoare or visit the Illegal Logging portal.

These findings are part of Chatham House’s 'Indicators of Illegal Logging and Related Trade’ project, which looks at consumer, producer and processing countries. A further nine country reports will be published in the coming months, and a Synthesis Report will be published in early 2015.