Empowering demand side measures to stop illegal logging by improving access to information
To help ensure that information collected by monitors has the maximum impact on strengthening forest governance, REM is developing the Open Timber Portal (OTP) in collaboration with the World Resources Institute (WRI). The OTP is the world's largest database on forest infractions with over 2,000 recorded to date.
The Open Timber Portal is an online platform hosted and maintained by WRI that supports the application of demand side measures against illegal logging like the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) and the US Lacey Act. It does this by addressing a fundamental need - information. EUTR authorities cannot seize illegal timber if they lack the information needed to assess legality. The OTP combines information from Independent Monitors, logging companies, WRI Forest Atlases and Global Forest Watch into a one-stop-shop for reliable data on the logging sector. It also presents information according to specific user needs. REM works with WRI and other partners to:
- Integrate Independent Forest Monitoring data into the OTP from around the world
- Establish best practices to ensure that independent monitors collect information easily applied to EUTR legality due diligence
- Design the database according to user needs at both ends of the timber supply chain
- Test the OTP in real-life use cases
Why the OTP?
Demand side measures to fight illegal logging, such as the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR), require reliable, concise and clear information on illegal forest exploitation in order to be effective. Independent Forest Monitors (IFM) provide such information in their reports, however EUTR actors rarely use these reports to their full potential for several reasons, such as difficulty in: accessing information published in different formats on different websites; gathering information on a specific company; and, perhaps most important, interpreting the severity of observations. There are also issues concerning the quality of information provided by IFMs, especially allegations of illegal activity.
To help ensure that monitors collect reliable information on illegal logging and that demand side actors use this information effectively, the World Resources Institute (WRI), REM and FLAG are closely working with Civil Society IFMs in the Congo Basin, Africa and EUTR actors to develop improved systems to collect, manage and apply information on illegal logging and governance problems to EUTR due diligence or FLEGT legality verification .
The final database will provide a single point of entry for any stakeholder wishing to obtain explicit information on a specific logging company or timber producing country (forest governance) that is presented in a demand side measure friendly format. Links to complete and detailed investigation reports will be accessible from this database to enable deeper investigations. REM has populated the database with information from global mandated and non mandated Independent Forests Monitors and met with some of those IFM in the Congo Basin to define thresholds of severity for all major forest infractions, as well as governance indicators.
The Open Timber Portal was designed jointly by the World Resources Institute and partners in government agencies, civil society and the private sector. The following groups have helped develop the concept and with testing the site:
Resource Extraction Monitoring (REM)
Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG)
Observatoire de la Gouvernance Forestière (OGF)
Cercle d’Appui à la Gestion Durable des Forêts (CAGDF)
Conseil pour la Défense Environnementale par la Légalité et la Traçabilité (CODELT)
Improving the quality of data on illegal logging
A four-day regional workshop on the Open Timber portal (OTP) was held in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo in November 2017 for Independent Forest Monitors (IM), the partners of the CIDT CV4C project. The training showed participants how data management tools such as OTP (online data management system designed by WRI with the support of key partners including REM, FLAG, OGF and CAGDF) can help them prepare, prioritise their missions and publish their results. The IMs were able to provide comments on the OTP which will be taken into account before the publication of the live version. The workshop was also an excellent opportunity for IMs to work together to improve their methods and ensure that their data is useful for law enforcement such as the EUTR.
With support from the UK-DfID Forest Governance, Markets and Climate 2015 Grant