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About Us: the Project

Making the Forest Sector Transparent

Making the Forest Sector Transparent builds on the extensive work undertaken and expertise gained by Global Witness over the last fifteen years in extractive industry transparency and forest monitoring.

In many forest-rich-but-poor countries, decisions over how those forests are managed and sustained are often made behind closed doors, by an elite minority who have vested interests which seldom benefit the vast majority of local, and often very poor, citizens.

The project commenced in October 2008 and aims to improve forest sector policy and practice in selected forest-rich countries by making governments more responsive and accountable.

That is to say:

  • encouraging decision- and policy-makers to exercise their power for the greater good;
  • building the capacity of the poor and/or marginalised to influence decisions that affect their lives.
About Us: the Project

The project is funded until March 2013 by the UK Department for International Development, as part of its 'Governance and Transparency Fund'. The total budget is £3,752,707.

Pilot countries

In the first year of the project, the focus was on four pilot countries (Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia and Peru), gradually increasing in scope to include successively Ecuador, Guatemala, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Click on the link at the end of this page for more details.

Working in partnership to strengthen civil society

The project takes a rights-based approach, working directly with forest-dependent local communities in order to identify their needs and empower them to assert their rights and hold to account those in positions of influence.

Global Witness has formed partnerships with an independent local NGO working on forest governance in each of the countries. Activities focus on supporting this network of civil society organisations - including local environmental and human rights campaigners - by building their capacity to:

  • monitor the availability of forest sector information;
  • compare disclosure and dissemination of information (such as forest management plans, concession allocation, revenues and infractions).

Each of the partners, in turn, supports smaller civil society organisations (CSOs) working at the grassroots, community level through a sub-grant system managed by each partner. This not only helps to empower local people to be able to identify their own needs for organisational development and to take leadership in their own communities, but also ensures that all project activities and local level advocacy activities are undertaken effectively.

Gathering and assessing data

The project has designed and piloted a 'transparency report card' that gathers data on the level of public access to information, as a means of assessing transparency and any progress made towards the improvement of forest sector policy and practice. This report card takes a rights-based approach; it is both top-down (looking at the legal obligations each state has to enhance transparency and participation in decision-making - including reference to the individual country's constitution, Freedom of Information legislation, and sector-specific laws - and bottom-up (working with forest-dependent communities to identify information needs, so that communities can assert their rights, and hold duty-bearers to account).

This data is collected on an annual basis, so that change can be tracked, and comparisons can be made the data sets of each of each participating country.

Advocating for positive change

The report card is a diagnostic tool. It drives - and the project supports - local, national and international advocacy aimed at improving policy and practice across the forestry sector so that decision-makers and those in positions of influence:

  • respond to the needs of forest-dependent citizens;
  • and are accountable to these citizens for what they do (or don't do).

The results of this work are available on this website, under Lessons Learnt and the annual transparency report publications.

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