Independent Forest Monitoring in the Congo Basin: Taking Stock and Thinking Ahead
This paper discusses the key challenges faced by independent forest monitoring (IFM) organizations in the Congo Basin and proposes recommendations for practitioners, policymakers, NGOs, and donors to improve the efficiency of IFM in the region, expand the model geographically, and move it beyond timber.
WRI and its partners, Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG) and Resource Extraction Monitoring (REM), evaluated the achievements of IFM in the Congo Basin since 2000. This analysis was based on information from 469 IFM mission reports published by 11 IFM organizations between 2001 and 2020.
- Despite challenges in navigating relationships with governments, IFM organizations have delivered significant outcomes including, but not limited to, the withdrawal of illegal forest titles and the adoption of new ministerial orders improving forest legality and forest governance overall.
- Our analysis reveals that more reports were published in the early years of IFM, when fewer IFM organizations were active and fewer countries covered. The highest number of IFM missions was completed in Cameroon, where IFM began, with an average of 14 percent of forest management units visited each year between 2007 and 2013.
- Launched by international donors and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) more than 20 years ago, independent forest monitoring (IFM) is a key component of international strategies aiming to improve forest governance and tackle illegal logging.
- New regulations and processes now provide opportunities to expand IFM geographically and apply it to agricultural commodities.
- Despite political resistance, IFM organizations have delivered significant outcomes including the withdrawal of illegal forest titles and adoption of new ministerial orders improving forest legality and forest governance overall.
- The lessons learned from 20 years of IFM of illegal logging in the Congo Basin can inform the development of emerging forms of IFM, e.g., determining if illegal forest clearing is occurring within agricultural developments, or determining which REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) projects are complying with safeguards and achieving promised benefits.
- To improve the efficiency of IFM in the region, expand the model geographically, and move it beyond timber, donors and policymakers should support policy and legal reform institutionalizing IFM, propose long-term funding mechanisms for IFM, and promote standardized monitoring and evaluation processes across IFM projects.
- IFM organizations should also improve the utility of IFM data to enforce demand-side measures by further improving IFM efficiency, data quality, and standardization.
Open Timber PortalLaunch PlatformLaunch Platform Visit Project
The Open Timber Portal (OTP) promotes compliance with legal requirements in timber harvest and trade by compiling information from governments, private sector and third-party forest monitors in producer countries.Part of Forest Legality
Forest Legality InitiativeLaunch PlatformLaunch Platform Visit Project
The Forest Legality Initiative (FLI) works to achieve better forest management and governance through preventing illegal logging and supporting legal sourcing.Part of Forests