Forests Week: The tireless fight for forest reform in the face of violence and corruption

Forests Week banner

Over the past few days we have outlined some of the issues, background and thoughts from our Forests team and as the week of attention comes to a close I am asked to consider what the future holds for us and the work we plan to do towards wider forest reform. 

Our methods of investigating environmental crime, which includes both timber and wildlife, is at the heart of what we do.

rainforest indonesia

The canopy of a pristine rainforest in Indonesia (c) EIAimage

Exposing the nexus between organised crime, corrupt politicians and businessmen is our stock in trade. We work on the ground to find out who is involved, find the paper trail and determine where the money’s coming from and to whom it goes. Who really benefits and who is impacted the most? What are the drivers and who are the consumers?

Our job is to name names, explain the methods used and, hopefully, expose the syndicates benefiting from forest crime. This doesn’t happen quickly and it takes commitment to stay focused.

The talent in our Forests team allows for research and analysis along with the ability to sustain relationships and networks. Knowing when to release information and what to do afterwards – this is as important as the release of the information itself.

Berta Cáceres

A vigil for Berta Cáceres, the murdered Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader

And then there is the issue of security. It’s no secret that there is an increase in violence against individuals and communities fighting to save their forests from the many threats they face, including from those involved in organised crime, corrupt governments and cronies.

As the former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox, explains: For their tireless work in empowering communities and protecting ecosystems, environmental defenders are killed in startling numbers.

“Murder is not the only way environmental defenders are persecuted; for every one person killed, there are 20 to 100 others harassed, unlawfully and lawfully arrested, and sued for defamation, amongst other intimidations.”

So, EIA will continue to fight tirelessly for reform within the forestry sector and address key governance issues while calling out those who continue to steal and believe in quick fixes to line their pockets.

More than a billion people rely on forests to sustain their livelihoods and that matters – a lot.