The Democratic Republic of Congo's logging sector is in a state of “organised chaos” according to a new report from Greenpeace Africa, threatening to cut off trading with the European Union (EU), the world’s largest timber market. A new regulation banning illegal timber came into effect in the month of March. Cut It Out: Illegal Logging in the DRC details how the so-called “battle against illegal logging” launched by the DRC government is failing and reveals the devastating impact that the lack of governance, law enforcement and transparency is having on part of the world’s second largest rainforest.
"Logging companies, including multinationals, are routinely flouting Congolese law, with complete impunity," said Irène Wabiwa, forests campaigner with Greenpeace Africa. "Many are involved in large-scale timber laundering and as a result, the government is denied tax revenues. Illegal logging is impacting directly on millions of Congolese citizens who depend on forests for their livelihoods."
Compiled through research and field trips to Bandundu province, the report shows how companies are getting around a moratorium on new industrial logging permits in the country through the illegal use of artisanal permits, which are officially only to be used for small scale logging. Upon visiting Kinkole port near Kinshasa, Greenpeace Africa witnessed log ends being removed and painted with new markings to hide illegal activities and to enable export (see movie).
The European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) prohibits illegally harvested timber (and timber products) from being traded on the European market. Timber traders are required to act with due diligence to minimise the risk of illegal timber from entering their supply chains.
The state of the sector in the DRC and the lack of independent systems there to verify legality mean it is extremely difficult under current circumstances, if not impossible, for traders based in the EU and dealing in timber from the DRC to comply with the legislation.
Companies in Europe need to ensure they fulfill all requirements in the new law to avoid being liable and prosecuted. If they continue with 'business as usual' they will be found out.
"This law ends a long period of impunity in the timber industry. Any timber operators caught selling illegal timber on the EU market will now risk being prosecuted and facing sanctions. There is no other option for the industry but to comply," said Danielle Van Oijen, forests campaigner with Greenpeace International.
"With strict enforcement from EU governments, this new law can promote a change of behaviour in the global timber industry, including in the DRC and to help stop forest destruction."