F.L.E.G.T: Letter by letter
This section explores each of the letters in the FLEGT acronym: F for forest; L for law; E for enforcement; G for governance and T for trade. Each page provides background information, examples, story ideas and reporting tips.
Forests provide essential goods and services for people everywhere, no matter how distant they are from the trees. Forest goods include timber, meat, fruit and medicines. Forest services include preventing erosion, protecting wild species, regulating water supplies and storing carbon – so important to the fight against climate change. All of these benefit humanity as a whole, even people who have never seen a forest. For communities that live in and around forests, they underpin livelihoods and wellbeing more directly.
The definition of a forest can be controversial due the huge difference between protected areas such as national parks and wildlife reserves and production forests that governments, private owners or concessionaires exploit for their timber.
If a definition includes ancient forests rich in wildlife and plant species as well as single-species plantations trees grown for commercial uses then there are real concerns that biodiversity rich forests could be replaced with monoculture plantations without it being described as forest loss.
FLEGT is relevant to all forests and plantations because illegal logging can happen anywhere there is a tree. And because forests include giant concessions controlled by logging companies as well as small patches of woodland controlled by communities, often different laws apply to each. Different forest users can also claim different rights. In fact, clarification of ownership and tenure (who can use what resources for how long, and under what conditions), is often a critical first step in any effort to protect forests.
Report innovation and success stories. People know about the doom and gloom. That’s one main reason why they turn the page or channel, or click away, when they come upon another story about forest destruction. But the forests, and even factories, are full of great hopeful stories about people, governments and companies changing the way forests are managed and wood products are made and sold. From reduced-impact logging techniques, to community enterprises, to smart phones and drones for monitoring illegal logging, to cutting-edge production techniques and fair trade furniture – the stories are out there, waiting to be told.
Find some heroes. The story of the woeful forest victims has been overdone. There are heroes in the forest, people taking enormous risks by standing up to illegal loggers and corrupt officials. Where are their stories? Don’t ignore injustice and inequity when reporting the plight of forest communities, but dig deeper and reach wider. There are common causes and, too often, the same big companies, are behind apparently random stories of dispossessed communities and destroyed forests. Tie them together with context, patterns and, importantly, stories of resistance. One more picture of helpless victims is one more news consumer turning away.
Questions to consider
- What is the state of the forest you are reporting about? How much forest is left and what condition is it in? Is forest degradation a bigger problem than deforestation?
- Whose forest is it? Who has rights to use the forest? Is it officially government land? Has it been unofficially a village’s land for centuries?
- Who gets to decide the fate of a forest? A big or small company with a 40-year concession? A community forest management committee? The local honcho? The army?
- Who controls activities in the forest?
- How do FLEGT activities align with REDD+ and initiatives that focus on sustainability rather than legality? See Beyond FLEGT.
- How do Voluntary Partnership Agreements apply to different forest types?
Learn more: The World Rainforest Movement has a useful collection of publications and videos that explore the definition of forests. The World Bank has a good overview of the importance of forests. Other sources of more information on forests include the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the EU FLEGT Facility.
Credit: Kate Evans Center for CIFOR