African countries consent to tackle illegal timber trade in Congo Basin – UN agency
Representatives of six countries – the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire and Gabon – adopted jointly with timber industry representatives and civil society the “Brazzaville Declaration,” named for the capital city where an international conference on sustainable forestry in the region was held from 21-22 October.
According to FAO, which estimates the net loss of forest in the Congo Basin at some 700,000 hectares per year from 2000-2010, the newly-agreed declaration marks an unprecedented commitment towards the sustainable and legal development of the wood industry in the region.
“The Brazzaville Declaration could help slow down the pace of deforestation in the region,” said Olman Serrano, a forestry officer from FAO.
The Congo Basin, covering an area of 300 million hectares, harbours the world’s second largest rainforest after Amazonia. As a key resource for stabilizing the global climate, however, it is also a major supplier of illegal timber.
According to FAO-backed studies, Congo Basin tree species are generally larger in height than their Amazon counterparts. This suggests that the African rainforest may be a larger carbon storehouse and a crucial resource for productive and sustainable forest management.
“We must ensure that our forest resources contribute to the development of the countries in this region,” said Raymond Mbitikon, Executive Secretary of the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC). “This is what the Brazzaville Declaration sets out to achieve.”
An outcome of a long term debate with key stakeholders in the forest and wood industry, as well as regional and international partners, the Brazzaville Declaration aims to implement measures that improve timber tracking, transparency and forest governance.