We briefly summarize some of the main conclusions of this meeting, and discuss about orientations for the future, in relation to past agreements.
China has become a major player on the African forest market and now absorbs nearly 50% of the wood production from this region. In this context, with the objective of strengthening the actors involved in the sustainable and legal management of tropical forests, the ATIBT has established relationships with some Chinese actors in the forest-wood sector, active in Central Africa or importing wood from this region. With ITTO support, ATIBT has been able to move closer to the two main Chinese initiatives that support and mentor China’s private forest sector: CTWPDA and GGSC.
Following numerous exchanges since May 2018, it was decided to organize the ATIBT Forum in Shanghai from 22 to 23 October 2019 on the theme “Together towards sustainable global green supply chains”, together with the partners mentioned above.
A number of initiatives were concretized during this forum and the CTWPDA conference (in Huzhou), including (1):
- A statement to promote the global green supply chains between UFIGA & UFIAG to lead all their members, forest industrialists in Gabon, towards a minimum certification of legality by the end of 2022.
- A memorandum of understanding between ATIBT & CTWPDA to strengthen the relations between the parties through information exchanges and experience sharing on legality and sustainable management of tropical forests issues.
- – GGSC’s invitation to the outgoing ATIBT President, Mr. R. Hunink, to participate in the GGSC Entrepreneur Think Tank, an instrument designed to contribute to the consolidation of the initiative.
Below, we briefly summarize some of the main conclusions of this meeting, and discuss about orientations for the future, in relation to past agreements.
Climate change mitigation, linked to the fight against deforestation and the sustainable management of tropical forests, is a subject that China has taken up with the organization of COP15 on the Biodiversity Convention next year in Kunming. This theme has underpinned many exchanges.
Participants of the forum understand that changes are expected from them, especially after the cases that shook the industry in 2018 and 2019 (Kevazingogate, EIA reports).
On a concrete level, the UFIAG & UFIGA statement, signed in the presence of the Minister of Forests of Gabon, Professor Lee White, is a declaration that will certainly be closely monitored.
It should be noted that, in addition to the certification objectives set by the Gabonese authorities by 2022, companies can benefit from the technical and financial support of the PPECF programme (coaching certification), other support possibilities will also be sought, in particular through CAFI.
What other actions should be taken and within what time frame?
Now, actions on the ground are needed, in Gabon and in the other countries of the Congo Basin, where ATIBT is working. While in Gabon, the sector now has a certification obligation, in Congo, Cameroon and the DRC, the evolution will depend on the own determination of Chinese companies (and importers in China), who will not (yet) be under political constraint. This is probably where the GGSC organization, political willingness in China. The Memorandum of understanding of Chinese CTWPDA importers will be expected, and the work of our association, like that of other organizations involved in the sustainable management of tropical forests, will be essential.
In order to be able to interact closely with these organisations, two other initiatives, mentioned above have been concluded: the participation of the outgoing ATIBT President, Mr Robert Hunink, in the GGSC Entrepreneur Think Tank, and the protocol signed between the ATIBT and the CTWPDA to strengthen exchanges between professional organisations.
This work is to be carried out over the next 12 months. In the implementation of these exchanges, we will have to involve the authorities, professional associations of the forest-wood sector, and local NGOs.
The work will be intense for ATIBT and its partners, each country having its own challenges.
We are certain that a strong mobilization will be required because there is insufficient time at the global level on the issue of global warming, and there is also insufficient time to deal with the decline of biodiversity and tropical forests.
For our next meetings and the next ATIBT forum, we must keep a course and evaluate the willingness of Asian companies to:
– Rely on international certifications recognized by all stakeholders;
– Support credible traceability systems;
– Seek payments for ecosystem services;
– Combating environmental and wildlife crime;
– Contribute to sustainable development in wood-producing countries.
In conclusion, we share one idea: shouldn’t the next GGSC forum be held in Africa; it would be important for the Congo Basin.
In addition, we are currently conducting a participant survey to gather feedback and will report on these results very soon.
(1) These agreements are available on request for ATIBT members.