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Posts Tagged ‘Faith Doherty’

Saving the world's forests, EIA has been working on this campaign for over 10 years. Credit EIA.

Saving the worlds forests, EIA has been working on this campaign for over 10 years.

Sitting on the Eurostar, once again on my way to Brussels and this time for what should be a defining moment for our campaign against illegal logging, I have been thinking about the amount of time I have spent in meetings and how much I have learned over the years about getting legislation through the European Union.  

As campaigners, we’re supposed to be flexible enough to take whatever is thrown at us, and turn complicated and over-talked issues into something anyone can understand. But nothing prepared me for what I had to deal with when I first went to Brussels. I have sat through meetings where I have literally not understood a single thing that has been said to me as to why something could not possibly happen. This, I have now learned, is the whole idea. A lot of governments I have lobbied over the years have used a similar practice and, drawing on that experience, I decided that if we wanted something to go through and if we couldn’t do it directly, then we would go over, under and around ’the problem’ in our own way.

I remember the first time I was invited to speak to a hearing on forestry issues, which at that time did not have illegal logging issues on the top of its agenda but instead focused on forest issues that were going nowhere. I had been invited by Europe-based NGO’s to talk about our campaign to a large group of Commission representatives from about five different Directorates. (Ministries).  I had no idea what I was walking into. The Commission was keeping everyone focused on some issue that was going around in circles and seemed totally pointless to me, but I was told “this is a consultation and it’s formal, so we need to ensure what we are saying goes on the record”. I sat there with huge admiration for my colleagues as they continued to make their point to the grey suits sitting on a panel in front of us in an enormously large room. Then it was my turn.

EIA have been in Brussels finalising the VPA between Indonesia & the EU

EIA have been in Brussels finalising the VPA between Indonesia & the EU

“Europe has made a lot of money from illegal logging and the illegal trade in timber for so long now that it’s become the norm.” I said. “Traders and importers know who the bad guys are. Our desire for cheap tropical timber means that we’re fuelling corruption, ensuring the middle men make all the money and there’s no chance for anyone wanting to work legally, let alone sustainably. It’s ensuring that those who do the right thing are unable to work with a level playing field and only those who have connections are able to make real profits. Producer countries are losing millions in lost state revenue and we’re creating a new breed of timber barons. Let me tell you how this works in the case of Indonesia.”

“Excuse me, but this is not on the agenda,” said a grey suit.

“Really? I am going to continue because it should be on your agenda.”

And I did. Our main objective in Europewas to have a law that would make it an offence to supply and sell illegally sourced timber. With illegal logging rampant in Indonesia at that time, the EU needed to take some responsibility. It sounded so simple.

Yesterday, EIA and Telapak held a debriefing on the conclusion of an accord between Indonesia and the EU called a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

Indonesia has agreed to implement a credible timber licensing scheme to eliminate illegally produced timber in its trade with the EU. Although this is a milestone for Indonesia, it is the way this agreement was reached that is so extraordinary. Read more about the new VPA.

Over the years, the divide between stakeholders was huge. But yesterday, as we spoke of the journey we have all taken to get to this point, emotions ran high. Compared to the meeting I first went to in Europe all those years ago, this was something entirely different and the feeling of ownership from everyone made the difference.

Faith Doherty

Faith Doherty

Senior Campaigner

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Illegal logging copyright EIATen years ago when EIA and our Indonesian partners Telapak started to investigate illegal logging and all the concerns that this environmental crime brings, an issue that kept coming up was the role of civil society and how to ensure our voices were heard.

We have all taken risks investigating what goes on in the forests and some of our partners live with that risk every single day. Our exposure of timber barons and the corruption that allows them to operate without penalties, have been the trademark of the EIA /Telapak partnership.

In Indonesia a few years ago, I remember being in a meeting with some Indonesian officials from the Ministry of Forestry and asking why nothing was being done to formally investigate a person of interest, even with a dossier of evidence sitting on the table in front of us. His response was to ask if we could investigate further, “find out more” he said, “We need more information”.

I was absolutely furious, here was someone who had the power, had the mandate and had the resources to investigate arrest and ensure some judicial proceeding occurred no matter how corrupt. We were taking huge risks with no protection and no mandate, to ensure any proceedings went ahead. What made this even worse was that the international community had always relied on the verification of commercial activities within the forests to foreign companies. Which meant that those with vested interests, were monitoring themselves. Our evidence was considered at times but we had no avenue to ensure action was taken. Until now.

Meeting in JakartaTwo weeks ago I attended a meeting organised by EIA and Telapak to talk about the formal role of civil society in the independent monitoring of Indonesia’s forests. This was a crucial meeting and at a critical time, as Indonesia had in September enacted a new law that outlines the legality system of the trade in timber and wood products from Indonesia. This law is also applicable to domestic consumption.  It has taken a long time to get this law out there but the process that Indonesia took was open and inclusive.  Civil society were included and in fact at times needed, due to a lack of capacity within the government. And this has continued, so that civil society is now formally part of the independent monitoring of Indonesia’s forests. Instead of being outside the loop, we’re right in there and will have to operate within the system of this new law.  We all recognise that this law is not perfect. In fact, some people think you can drive a logging truck through it!  But it’s a start and something we intend to build on.

Our meeting, held in Jakarta, was to ensure a commitment from all the groups, individuals and indigenous communities to be part of the Independent Monitoring system that is part of the new law.  Meeting in Jakarta just last week After a day of presentations by officials from both the Indonesian government and the European Union, our meeting went in to an intense 2 day discussion of the details and work plans needed for this to work.   People from all over Indonesia were represented at this meeting, so when we all came together at the end of the smaller group discussions, it was clear that everyone was completely committed to ensuring this would work.  People were placed into responsible positions, work plans from each region were presented and from that, a new network was formed.

Choosing the name for this was an amazing time with everyone involved in throwing a name or names into the mix. And what a result! A new network was born. The Independent Forest Monitoring Network or in Indonesian Jaringan Pemantau Independen Kehutanan (JIPIK).

After all the years of being outside the system and having to rely on companies monitoring themselves, JIPIK is there to be the voice for civil society.  And now the real work begins. Our investigations will continue but this time we have an avenue for that information to be formally recognised and acted on.

 

Faith Doherty

Faith Doherty

 

Faith Doherty

EIA Campaigner

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Copyright EIA/TelepakOther good news from Indonesia in the past month relates to timber legality and trade. On the 1st September, Indonesia’s SVLK (Timber Legality Verification System) came into force, having been passed by a Minister of Forestry Regulation in 2009 (No P.38/Menhut-II/2009). Telapak have been centrally involved in the development of this standard over the years, with our joint exposes of illegal logging and timber smuggling helping develop the political and commercial space required to enact it.

While the SVLK is mandatory for all timber producers and traders in Indonesia, it is also the basis of a timber licensing system that will be a central plank of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Indonesia and the European Union, which is now expected to be signed by the end of this year. VPAs are key elements of the European Commission’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative, the EU’s core policy on illegal logging and trade.

This follows the passage of the European Illegal Timber Regulation in June this year, which will prohibit the placement of illegal timber from countries such as Indonesia on the EU market. The EU law explicitly exempts VPA-licensed timber from the Due Diligence requirements of the regulation, presenting clear incentives for Indonesia and other countries to agree a VPA.

Such developments have been key strategic goals of EIA’s forests campaign, and are testament to the role EIA and Telapak have played in this important issue for over a decade.

But we can’t rest on our laurels.

Next week, EIA and Telapak are organising and hosting a National Indonesian Civil Society Conference on the new legality standard, in Jakarta, where we hope to facilitate the establishment a network of local and national NGOs and community groups to monitor the implementation of the standard – just in case the authorities don’t do so properly themselves.

Why not trust the authorities? One reason is that one of the recently government accredited “auditors” set to certify supply chains for compliance with the legality standard, PT Sucofindo, featured in our latest timber smuggling expose – Rogue Traders – after staff were found to have accepted bribes to allow logs to be smuggled out of the country in containers. Sometime you have to watch the watchmen, and audit the auditors…

Faith Doherty will be updating you on how the conference goes in the not too distant future, so watch this space…

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But what does this all mean and why should the Average Joe Bloggs care?

We all want nice furniture for our home; a wooden dining table, wooden flooring etc, but how often do you question where the wood has come from? Have you considered how your dining table came to be? From forests, often in Asia or South America, to timber factories; into Europe and the shop floor and finally into your home? A very rough analogy would be; did you question buying chicken breasts from your supermarket before Jamie and Hugh highlighted the terrible conditions of chicken farms?

There is a story behind every piece of wood furniture; millions of people world-wide rely on forests for their livelihood. Illegally sourced wood directly and dramatically affects many of these communities, EIA’s work in Indonesia highlights just one area of exploitation. The core issue behind illegal logging is corruption, and the illegal trade in timber involves major criminal syndicates. Consumers in the UK have spent up to £700 million a year on timber and wood products that we believe are illegally sourced.

And ultimately illegal logging destroys bio-diversity. The most extreme examples of illegal logging are taking place in the last remaining areas of primary forest.

EIA’s campaign originally focused on the Orang-Utan but you cannot save this iconic primate without protecting its habitat – habitat that is disappearing fast.

Why does this affect you?
The US and Europe are the largest consuming markets for these wood products, 20% of the wood that currently enters the EU is illegally sourced, 7% for UK specifically. Our demand for these products drives the trade (WWF; 2007). This new law directly addresses the rogue traders and criminals involved in the illegal timber trade.

You will soon be able to ask the supplier where the wood furniture has come from. Because of the new law, they will be required to ensure they have information of where the timber was harvested.
Last week the EU voted heavily in favour of this law, however it will take two years before it is implemented fully. EIA will now work with the European Commission and member states, including the UK government, to thrash out the details. Penalties need to be high to ensure it deters further illegal activity. This law will make the trade more transparent, one of EIA’s goal, so that in future when we ask where is it from, suppliers will be obiligated to know.

Our mindset to obtain exactly what we desire, prepared, flatpacked, even skinned and seasoned for us (when it comes to chicken!) at a cheap price, without questioning how it came to fruition is ultimately at the root of the problem.
This law and similarly the Lacey Act in the US, both of which EIA have led the way, is a step in combating this crime. Changing your mindset is up to you.
“There is no silver bullet in stopping the illegal trade in timber but this is a good first shot” – Faith Doherty.
EIA campaigner, Faith, has been personally working on this campaign and last week’s vote is a culmination of ten year’s hard work. Whilst investigating the trade ten years ago in Indonesia, she and her colleague were kidnapped and tortured by timber barons for exposing illegal logging. Her personal story is compelling read her interview at mongabay.com our own video with Faith will be on the homepage soon eia-international.org


For more details on the law click here.

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