Cameroon’s forests, covering more than 20 million hectares, offer a range of ecosystem services and are vital resources for both biodiversity and economic growth. But illegal loggers also find value in the forests, and illegal logging has long threatened local livelihoods, decimated wildlife, and squandered public revenue. The Cameroonian government is responsible for controlling logging activities, but a lack of adequate forest-related information, tools, and capacity has historically made it difficult to monitor logging activities.
Recognizing this critical gap, WRI launched a partnership in 2002 with Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and interested NGOs. WRI’s goal was to provide information and tools that would improve transparency, accountability, and forest monitoring — ultimately serving as the springboard for a crackdown on illegal logging. WRI developed interactive maps, data, and decision-support systems to monitor logging activities and trained government officials, NGO, and private sector representatives on their use. These systems have:
Enabled Cameroonian officials to systematically detect logging violations in protected areas and outside of forest concessions.
Empowered local NGOs to conduct independent monitoring of logging operations.
Helped ensure wood products leaving Cameroon were harvested legally, in compliance with international import regulations such as the FLEGT and U.S. Lacey Act.
As the first international NGO to map Cameroon’s forests and place accurate, up-to-date information into public hands, WRI sent ripples through the Cameroonian forest sector, making it clear that illegal logging would no longer go unnoticed or unpunished.
Principle 10’s guidelines are fundamental pillars of good environmental governance. They cover critical areas, including freedom of information laws, state of the environment reporting, emergency planning and response, project planning, and environmental harms. Adoption of the guidelines will have several significant impacts:
The decision clarifies minimum legal standards for implementation of Principle 10.
The decision requires UNEP’s Executive Director to assist countries in implementing programs and policies around access — and thus ensures that UNEP has a mandate to continue advancing the implementation of Principle 10 at the national level.
The GC’s formal adoption of the guidelines will be critical in strengthening the case that officials and civil society can make for open information systems and decision-making processes.
WRI’s Access Team and partners played a significant role in leading the push to convince GC members to formally adopt the guidelines, rather than simply “note” them. Staff wrote online articles informing access proponents of the opportunity, and WRI sent staff and international partners to three UNEP meetings. WRI Staff Member Carole Excell participated in the Nairobi Expert Meeting in November of 2009 and played an important role in helping revise the guidelines.
Perhaps most critically, WRI successfully helped influence the U.S. delegation to the GC through communications with the USEPA and the U.S. Department of State. To our knowledge, no other U.S.-based NGO pressed the delegation on the issue of adoption. Ultimately reversing its earlier position, the U.S. delegation pushed strongly for adoption of the guidelines and successfully persuaded holdout countries to move toward a consensus for adoption.
UNEP’s poverty and environment division thanked WRI for its help in reaching this critical milestone.
Fires are flaring up once more on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Media reports in the region indicate that the resulting smog has already reached unhealthy levels over parts of Indonesia and Malaysia.
Decisions about how to generate, deliver and pay for electricity have a profound effect on people’s lives. WRI’s Electricity Governance Initiative (EGI) promotes transparent, inclusive and accountable decision-making in the electricity sector, with the goal of helping countries can develop more equitable and sustainable electricity policies. The partnership works in India, Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa, and the Philippines, five countries with rapidly growing emissions from power generation. Since 2005, we have worked with civil society organizations to complete national assessments of electricity governance and advocate for improvements. More than thirty organizations around the world are partners in the Initiative.
This breakthrough resulted from the opening up South Africa’s national electricity planning process, in which EGI played a key role.
Civil society organizations were invited to participate in a new open and consultative process to develop the Integrated Resource Plan for 2010-2030. EGI partners in South Africa produced and shared relevant and timely analyses of the draft plan, held public workshops with government officials, parliamentarians, and civil society groups, and drew media attention to key components of the plan. The result was the government’s heightened focus on the clean energy options of renewables and efficiency. In addition, the South African Department of Energy committed to develop a research agenda to address issues that arose during the public process.
A social entrepreneur invests the little working capital she has to bring solar electricity to a community that –like 1.2 billion people worldwide– lacks access to electricity. The community used to use dirty, expensive and choking kerosene for light to cook by and for children to learn by. The entrepreneur knows she can recoup her costs, because people are willing to pay for reliable, high-quality, clean energy – and it will be even less than what they used to pay for kerosene. Sounds like a good news story, right?
Three months later, the government utility extends the electrical grid to this same community, despite official plans showing it would take at least another four years. While this could be good news for the community, one unintended consequence is that this undermines the entrepreneur’s investment, wiping out their working capital, and deterring investors from supporting decentralized clean energy projects in other communities that lack access to electricity.
Few countries are unaffected by China’s overseas investments. The country’s outward foreign direct investments (OFDI) have grownfrom $29 billion in 2002 to more than $424 billion in 2011. While these investments can bring economic opportunities to recipient countries, they also have the potential to create negative economic, social, and environmental impacts and spur tension with local communities.
To address these risks, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and Ministry of Environment (MEP)—with support from several think tanks—recently issued Guidelines on Environmental Protection and Cooperation. These Guidelines are the first-ever to establish criteria for Chinese companies’ behaviors when doing business overseas—including their environmental impact. But what exactly do the Guidelines cover, and how effective will they be? Here, we’ll answer these questions and more.
Spanning six nations and 500 million acres of land in Central Africa, the Congo Basin contains the second largest contiguous tropical rainforest in the world and is home to a wealth of biodiversity and wildlife. More than 75 million people rely on it for food, fresh water, and shelter. Global demand for the region’s forest and mineral resources is high and growing.
Nowhere is the pressure more intense than in Gabon, a nation with 80 percent of its territory covered by dense tropical forest. With resource use demands spiraling in recent years, Gabon urgently needs better forest management planning if the government is to achieve its goal of becoming an emerging economy while preserving the country’s natural resources.
WRI’s forestry team has been working in Central Africa since 2002 to help nations collect and publish accessible information on forest concessions, logging infrastructure, and protected areas, thus improving transparency and governance in the forest sector.
With assistance from WRI and World Wildlife Fund, Gabon is improving transparency and access to natural resource information by combining forestry, mining, and conservation land use data into a single, public, information atlas. Recognizing the need for vastly improved coordination between various land allocation ministries, as well as the importance of reliable, high quality information for decision-making, the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum, and Hydrocarbons led the initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Forests. As a result, Gabon can begin to tackle conflicting land use claims and plan for comprehensive and coordinated land use allocation at the national level. In addition, industry and the public, armed with information, can participate more actively in decision-making and monitoring activities.
This multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral, and transparent approach is setting the foundation for improved land use and management in Gabon.
Promoting forest protection and sustainable agriculture in the Amazon region is vital for local livelihoods and biodiversity, as well as for global climate regulation.
In early 2011, the state legislature of Mato Grosso, Brazil passed a controversial new state zoning law (ZSEE) that opened up 50,000 km2 of new forest areas for conversion to agriculture. In February 2012, following a high-profile civil society campaign and a public civil action suit, the law was suspended through an injunction by Mato Grosso’s State Court. The injunction states: “It is true that… there were… vices of form capable of undermining the law… However, more important is that by reason of these vices, there was impairment of natural goods and services and sustainable development, so there is a risk of impairment of human life. This is the strongest argument that… imposes the granting of the injunction.” In March 2012, Brazil’s Federal Zoning Commission ordered the state government to redraft legislation.
The Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) – a founding partner of the Governance of Forests Initiative (GFI) – led the successful campaign by producing and distributing their analysis of the ZSEE / MT. This analysis was then used by civil society – including indigenous peoples, social movements, and researchers – as well as legislators and prosecutors in Mato Grosso. Civil society used all opportunities—such as seminars, public events, and protest letters—to denounce the new law. Meetings with more 250 people in attendance were convened.
Curbing Forest Loss
Within a month of the Governor sanctioning the new ZSEE, IMAZON, the other GFI partner in Brazil, documented a more than 500 percent spike in deforestation in Mato Grosso. The immediate public outcry, enforcement actions by the state, and the start of the state case in September, however, acted as immediate deterrents, and the rate of deforestation stabilized. However, without the decisions taken by the State Court and the Federal Zoning Commission, this increase in deforestation would likely have lasted longer, as the law effectively sanctioned past clearing and allowed new areas to be cleared.
These decisions marked an important victory for democratic decision-making and government accountability in a region where the rule of law relating to forests and agriculture is sometimes circumvented for political and economic gain.
Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role
GFI is a set of civil society organization partners in the United States, Brazil, Cameroon, and Indonesia dedicated to improving forest governance through evidence-based advocacy.
In 2010, WRI helped ICV to conduct a governance assessment of the Mato Grosso ZSEE process using a diagnostic tool, the GFI Framework of Indicators (v.1), developed by WRI, ICV, and IMAZON. ICV collected information and conducted interviews to compile a record of expert and civil society inputs into the bill’s drafting over 10 years, from 2000-2010. Armed with this evidence, ICV was able to quickly demonstrate the problems with the new law and start the outcry that led to this outcome.