Our recommendations are separated to priority improvements that can be implemented in a few months, and those which may take longer.
To governments and their forest authorities
Without delay, forest authorities and other government institutions should:
- Ensure all new legislation is crafted through open, inclusive debate and discussed and approved by the country's legislature. The new openness to consultation exhibited in various recent processes (often driven by an international initiative) should be maintained, and authorities should set and follow standards for consultation processes in all ongoing policy developments.
- Pass Freedom of Information legislation in countries where this does not yet exist. Where it does, ensure the institutions and procedures - such as information commissioners, websites and public information units, information management systems and awareness raising programmes - are in place to ensure its proper function.
- Where public forests are managed through concessions, systematically place in the public domain all concession agreements. Ensure this includes all supplementary documents as required, including in particular due diligence reports to support the transparent allocation of the concession, and social agreements between concessionaires and affected communities.
- Provide forest management plans to the public. Management plans or other documents should include sufficient information for citizens to know (i) the locations of logging or other operations at any particular time; (ii) the locations of areas where logging is not permitted, for conservation or cultural reasons, for example; (iii) quotas of the volume of timber to be extracted; and (iv) the actual volumes extracted. Forest management plans should be submitted to periodic revisions, in order to incorporate new threats to the forest, and to revise potential harm to communities.
- Ensure the regular, wide dissemination of periodic information such as catalogues of permit holders, allocation of revenues redistributed, and lists of infractions. Often such information can easily be provided as an internet-based public interface incorporated into a timber-tracking system.
- Eliminate all forms of permit allocation that are unaccountable or non-transparent. In particular, eliminate small titles or salvage systems that trade deforestation against other developments (such as roads or infrastructure) unless they are structured in a way that (a) allows the state (or other owner) to obtain the best possible price for the timber; and (b) that the subsequent development is delivered to an agreed high environmental standard.
- Avoid committing public land and forests to 'carbon concessions' or other land deals, unless or until there is a clear regulatory framework which clarifies the rights and benefit sharing arrangements, and protects against the government and citizens entering into high-risk agreements based on unfounded and potentially volatile payments systems.
In the medium term, forest authorities and other government institutions should:
- Pass legislation which give citizens, in particular indigenous peoples, the right to free prior informed consent regarding changes to forests and other land which they have a legitimate interest in.
- Develop a long-term strategy for managing their resource base, prepared in an open and consultative way, and detailing a transparent decision-making process for deciding trade-offs between, for example, different extractive industries and forest-based land use.
- Implement a process of land tenure regularisation that provides security and encouragement for small-scale multi-purpose forest management, including in particular environmental services. Such a process should respect customary rights over forest land.
To civil society organisations and communities
In the short term, organised civil society should:
- Increase their activity in obtaining, summarising and disseminating information between central bureaucracies and remote communities. This might include using national newspapers to disseminate information, commissioning radio programmes to discuss issues, and reproducing information available on websites into leaflets.
- Enable citizens to use Freedom of Information and other similar legislation providing access to information. This could require support to draft actual information requests, as well as more general awareness-raising on these opportunities.
- Work with stakeholders to determine priority information needs. Demands for greater transparency are strengthened, and information-providers are more responsive, when information is used in a constructive way.
- Further transparency and accountability in non-state institutions, such as traditional authorities or community-based organisations.
To donors and the international community
In the short term, donors and the international community should provide support to both governments and civil society in pursuit of the above recommendations. In the medium term, they should:
- Ensure specific commitments to transparency form part of all future international agreements, including Voluntary Partnership Agreements, REDD+ agreements and others.
- Press for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to expand to cover the forest, land, and environmental services sectors, and ensure transparency in all natural resource concession contract allocations as well as subsequent contract compliance.
For additional recommendations from the 2009 annual transparency report please click here.