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UNODC gears up to support the fight against forest crimes in Indonesia

Jakarta (Indonesia), 8 July 2010
- South-East Asia is home to some of the world's most extensive networks of tropical rainforest and diverse species of flora and fauna. Indonesia alone hosts the third-largest tropical rainforest and accounts for 10 per cent of global forest cover. Unfortunately, the country also registers one of the highest deforestation rates in the world.

Although its forests have allowed Indonesia to become a key timber supplier for the legal world market, growing demand, falling supply and inadequate law enforcement have meant that the country has also become a major source of illegally produced timber.

The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry estimates that in recent years Indonesia has been losing 1.6-2.8 million hectares annually to illegal logging and land conversion. In other words, the lack of effective management and law enforcement means that the equivalent of 3-5 hectares are being lost every minute. Illegal Logging in Indonesia: A Field Report from West Kalimantan.

Immediate action must be taken to combat these crimes before regional stocks disappear completely.

The Governments of Indonesia and Norway have taken the lead and at a meeting Oslo in May 2010 signed a letter of intent to reduce deforestation in Indonesia, backed by a billion-dollar commitment.

At the same time, in Indonesia, the Royal Norwegian Embassy Counsellor, Mette Kottmann and UNODC Regional Representative Gary Lewis signed a financing agreement to fund a UNODC project on Countering illegal logging and the linkage between forest crimes and corruption in Indonesia.

This three-year, US$ 2.3 million project aims to strengthen Indonesia's law enforcement and anti-corruption capacities. Coupled with the ongoing studies on law enforcement and corrupt practices being carried out under the "Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation - REDD" scheme, this new project represents the embryonic element of a longer-term programme designed to tackle the threat of illegal logging and wildlife trafficking.

Furthermore, on 23 and 24 June 2010, UNODC and the Government of Indonesia organized a workshop on "Identifying effective national responses to wildlife and forest crime: the case of Indonesia".

The workshop enabled representatives of the government, the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Telepak, Transparency International, the World Customs Organization and other local and international organizations to discuss how Indonesia could protect its unique biodiversity and wealth of natural resources from the threat of depletion posed by organized criminal networks.

Andhika Chrisnayudhanto, Deputy Director-General, International Security and Disarmament of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that "the past two days have been a true learning exercise for all of the participants attending the workshop". He added that "the sharing of knowledge between diverse stakeholders is necessary in order to build a common response to illicit activities of organized criminals".

Another participant, Anna Sinaga, who is a research officer for the Integrated Law Enforcement and Forest Governance Programme at the Center for International Forestry Research in Indonesia, said that "forest crime today cannot be solved by using forestry instruments alone. What is needed is cooperation between parties such as non-governmental organizations, the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission, the Indonesian National Police and others".

The participants concluded the workshop by recommending that the current national criminal justice capacities to respond to forest and wildlife crimes should be assessed. Such an assessment would draw on the ongoing efforts by UNODC, INTERPOL, the CITES Secretariat, the World Customs Organization and the World Bank, and result in a standardized toolkit.