Although the forest policy from 1993 stipulates in its main guidelines and objectives that: "the allocation of resources is subject to the rules of transparency and competitiveness…" the 1994 Forest Law did not contain provisions related to access to public information. Therefore, there has been no specific requirement on the forest authorities to publish information.
The ratification of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union is a major step forward because it introduces a new and binding obligation on the authorities in terms of transparency and the publication of information. Appendix VII commits the parties to publish a specific set of documents and data on the forest sector and also make information available in the event of a specific request by any other stakeholder. It also establishes the methods and channels for publishing information, including official reports, multi-stakeholder platforms, websites, meetings, forums and the media. Overall, 75 types of documents and data are listed under 10 categories including information on the legal system, production, allocation, management, processing, exports, legality assurance, audits, financial transactions, and the institutional set-up. An analysis of the gaps in information by CED and Global Witness in 2012 revealed that most of these documents and data were not published on a regular basis (1). Some of the documents on the legal framework and the management of forest concessions were in the public domain, but there were major shortcomings in publication of information on other activities. This indicated that illegal operations can be carried out with a certain degree of impunity, and that State officials can exercise discretionary powers in the dissemination of information. Local populations often have little (or no) access to the Internet, and they have difficulties in obtaining key information on forestry activities in their regions.
Nevertheless, the authorities have made some improvements in recent years, and the implementation of the VPA and the review of the Forest Act will strengthen the collection and dissemination of information. There are, however, a number of challenges to be faced in order to fulfil the commitments stated in Appendix VII. Progress in this area will depend on the implementation of key measures, such as a centralised information management system and a strategy for the publication of information through different channels so that all stakeholders, in particular the communities that depend on the forests for their livelihoods, can access and understand information on the sector.
(1) CED and Global Witness (2012) Cameroon VPA Transparency Gap Assessment 2012. Available at http://www.transparenceforestiere.info/cms/file/278
|Voluntary Partnership Agreement–FLEGT of 2010.