Pallisco logging company's FSC timber operations in Mindourou, Cameroon. Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.Pallisco logging company's FSC timber operations in Mindourou, Cameroon. Photo by Getty Images.

Neither Cameroon nor Malaysia has made progress in tackling illegal logging since 2010, according to new reports from Chatham House. Corruption, lack of political will and a lack of transparency pose problems in both countries. 

Illegal logging is much more widespread in Cameroon, where entrenched corruption, weak institutions and unclear and inappropriate laws are all impeding reform. Although Malaysia does not have such high levels of illegality, problems remain, particularly in the state of Sarawak.

Alison Hoare, Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House, said: 'Illegal logging has a devastating impact on some of the world’s most valuable remaining forests and on the people who live in them and rely on the resources they provide.'

'It is disappointing how little progress Cameroon and Malaysia have made in tackling illegal logging, which exacerbates deforestation, climate change, and poverty. In both countries corruption is a major issue, and the governments need to do much more to address the problem and its underlying drivers.' 

In Cameroon, the principle of transparency has not been accepted within the government, enforcement is weak and information management systems are inadequate. The misuse of  small permits, often granted to allow clearance of forests for infrastructure projects or agricultural expansion, is particularly problematic and could be increasing.

Meanwhile, a huge amount of illegal production takes place in the informal artisanal sector – accounting for around half of all timber produced in the country. Artisanal loggers mainly supply the domestic market, but their timber is also exported.

In Malaysia, governance varies significantly from region to region but there are high levels of deforestation across the country. Expansion of timber, pulp and agricultural plantations is the primary cause of forest loss, with the area of plantations expected to double by 2020. 

Adequate recognition of indigenous peoples’ land rights is also a serious challenge in Malaysia and has held up the negotiation of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the European Union. Recent enhanced efforts to tackle corruption, including in Sarawak, could mark a turning point. 

Alison Hoare: 'In both countries, more concerted efforts are needed to tackle corruption, increase consultation, and improve transparency and availability of information. The Cameroonian government also needs to pay more attention to the informal sector and the domestic market.'

Editor's notes: 

Read the reports:

Trade in Illegal Timber: The Response in the Cameroon by Alison Hoare

Trade in Illegal Timber: The Response in Malaysia by Alison Hoare

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 Synthesis Report will be published in early 2015.