Deforestation in Asia through illegal logging and forest conversion to cash-crop plantations is a major crisis, overseen by large international companies or transnational criminal gangs. Working with partners and civil society on the ground, our investigations expose the criminals, the illegal timber flows and the corruption which facilitates forest crime, using international laws to press for action and further reduce the scale of deforestation.

The problem

East Asia is in the midst of an environmental disaster, with some of the highest deforestation rates in the world; by 2030, the region could lose approximately 70 million hectares of natural forest, equivalent to 25 per cent of the projected global total. Unsustainable demand for high-value hardwoods is also a major driver of forest loss.

The logging of hardwoods has become industrialised in many countries in the region; logging companies and gangs now have the capacity to move into a forested area and rapidly extract all available hardwoods. These selective logging operations are typically run by large companies or criminal syndicates with strong links to the military and government; once they move into a rural community, this can have adverse and far-reaching impacts on existing social structures, communal land tenure and traditional sources of livelihood. Additionally, despite being some of the most vulnerable people within these rural communities, enforcement action is usually targeted at this same demographic as the easiest part of the trade chain to apprehend because their arrest is unlikely to result in political repercussions.

The difference we’ve made

The Forests Campaign has been addressing forest crime for more than two decades.  We have exposed illegal logging in Indonesia and Myanmar as well as the main actors behind it in China, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. We have exposed criminal syndicates in Mozambique, inside Myanmar and onto China and have revealed corruption at the highest levels of government in an effort to expose those driving forest crime. We have has assisted forest communities in their campaigns for greater transparency through deliberative processes. We also played a central role in delivering the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) and the US Lacey Act amendments and continues to use both as leverage for reform in producer countries.


Timber smuggling operation taking place across the Myanmar-China border © EIAimage

Moving forward

We will continue to build on our partnerships and support civil society engagement in working for reform within the forestry sector. Among the solutions we and our partners are working to achieve will feature the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative which includes trade agreements, demands for transparency, accountability and the support for civil society independent monitoring.

We will continue exposing patterns of illegal logging and associated timber flows, providing our information obtained from the field and through desk-based research to decision-makers, the trade, civil society networks and the media. We are striving to contribute to the protection of forest communities threatened by illegal logging and resource theft, and the men and women who depend on the forests for their survival and livelihoods.

An equitable place for civil society, including representatives of indigenous and forest communities, at the negotiating table with other stakeholders lends enormous credibility to any agreement that we support. Civil society independent monitoring is essential in giving credence to verification systems and solutions to forest crime. Investing in networks and partners to work alongside our forest campaigners in ‘ground-truthing’ is part of our methodology in combatting illegal logging and the associated illicit trade in timber.

We will continue to use both the EUTR and the US Lacey Act to ensure traders, suppliers and operators follow the law.

How you can help

Ask where your timber, furniture and wood products come from. Request proof that what you are buying is legal – and be especially aware of cheap tropical hardwoods. Your gift today will help us continue our vital investigative and campaigning work.