Compiled by WWF and the World Resource Institute (WRI), with funding from the European Commission, the report documents the role played by multinational logging companies in the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) countries. It shows how investment, formerly led by companies from Japan, Europe and North America, has shifted to Asian firms, mainly from Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea and Hong Kong (China). According to the study, this new trend has resulted in an expansion of destructive logging operations, violation of indigenous rights, and sometimes large-scale corruption.
"Most of the new investment focuses on short term activities, and the economic benefits to the exporting country are usually very low," said Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud, Head of WWF Forests for Life Programme. "In addition, the forests are often mined rather than managed, resulting in high levels of damage and increased access to previously untouched areas."
The report warns that urgent and concrete measures must be taken if the rapid disappearance of most of the remaining old-growth forests in the ACP countries is to be avoided. For example, it calls for the ACP governments to freeze all new foreign investment for the expansion of logging operations until land use planning has been completed and the traditional rights of local people have been defined. It also urges the World Bank and the European Commission to support only activities related to the achievement of sustainable forest management.
"Governments and investors who commit to sound forest management and independent certification recognized by the Forest Stewardship Council should receive special assistance from donors to help the shift from non-management to sustainability," added Xavier Ortegat, Chief Executive Officer of WWF-Belgium.
The new report follows up on a previous WWF study published in 1995 -- "Bad Harvest", which examined the impacts of the global timber trade. At that time, it was already foreseeable that Asian logging companies were rapidly increasing their impact on forests outside Asia.