“Democracy and the rule of law have taken a step backwards. Laws are inadequate, there is structural violence and the spaces used by civil society have been closed down. People can’t participate and influence the public policies that affect them.”
Maria Esteli González, Central American Women’s Fund, Nicaragua
Globally, much of the deforestation that occurs each year is illegal. In Latin America, drug trade and narco-deforestation linked to money laundering, tax evasion, and state capture destroy traditional governance systems and fragment landscapes. The financial return from illegal logging to organized crime, including companies and powerful individuals with close ties to governments, is estimated at over $100 billion/year and growing. Financial crime fuels the illegal networks that connect deforestation to the trade in illegal drugs and weapons and results in the expansion of organized crime into legitimate parts of the economy.
Increasing transparency and accountability will be critical to shrinking this illegal economy. National governments have an interest in halting illegal deforestation and cracking down on tax evasion which deprives them of much-needed resources. Independent media organizations play a key role in supporting local investigative journalists. There are positive examples of actions by public prosecutors in Brazil and the national anti-corruption commission in Indonesia. The EU and the US have legislation banning imports of illegally harvested timber. However, all of these promising approaches are under-funded and would benefit from increased support and attention.
HOW FUNDERS CAN SUPPORT
- Support the security needs of land and environmental defenders so they can defend themselves, their organizations, and their communities from intimidation and violence.
- Promote participatory governance, including community-led monitoring systems, and a strong and safe ecosystem of investigative journalism.
- Support litigation to provide grassroots and civil society organizations with legal recourse against illegal actions both domestically and internationally when abrogation of international agreements are relevant (e.g. ILO 169).
- Establish and implement demand-side policies that create incentives for companies and financial institutions to invest in supply chain traceability, due diligence, and compliance systems, while ensuring private sector leadership against illegality and human rights violations.
Climate & Forests 2030 Papers
- Nature Crime: Understanding and Tackling a Key Threat to the Climate and Land Use Agenda (Barber, Winfield, Petersen)
- The Nexus of Climate Change, Ecological Disruption, Stability, and Security (Sikorsky, Rezzonico & Lim)