November 27, Moscow. Special role of Russia in the history of the FLEG process, achievements and challenges of the past years and the modern situation with illegal logging in the country: these topics were discussed at a round table in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation.
Role of Russia in FLEG Process
In 2005, almost 300 representatives of 48 governments of Europe and Northern Asia gathered in St. Petersburg for the Ministerial Conference. They approved the St. Petersburg Declaration - an expression of commitment to take action to address illegal logging and associated forest crimes on the international and national levels.
As was noted by Alexander Panfilov, Deputy Head of the Federal Forestry Agency of Russia, “the Conference in 2005 yielded the first international document approved on the Ministerial level that said that the responsibility for illegal timber production lied both on countries that harvest this timber and on those that buy it.”
Russia was not just the host of the Ministerial conference. “From the very outset, Russia was a powerful catalyst and initiator of this process. This was due to its intention to adapt to more sustainable practices of law enforcement and take a rightful place on the world and regional timber markets”, noted World Bank’s FLEG II Program Coordinator in Russia Marina Smetanina.
The important role of the Russian society in the process was highlighted by Yury Shuvaev, deputy chairman of the environmental committee of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation. “FLEG II involves not only governments, not only the timber industry, but the entire population. We develop new approaches to forest management with the Russian public”.
What has changed in 10 years?
“This event has had a major impact on forest management both in Russia and other countries. St. Petersburg declaration is a not a legally binding document. But it is exactly such “soft law” documents that constantly and implicitly influence the governments, the society, educating them and directing them in the right path of development”, said World Bank’s FLEG II consultant Yevgeny Kuzmichev.
“Since then, we have advanced in many areas. Not just law enforcement, but even law itself has significantly changed”, noted Alexander Panfilov. The St. Petersburg Declaration spurred many important legal reforms in the world, including 2008 Amendments to U.S. Lacey Act, EU Timber Regulation (2010), and the new Russian Federal Law 415 (2013), which helped considerably improve timber tracking".
The World Bank, WWF and IUCN presented the achievements of the programs "FLEG I” and “FLEG II” in Russia. Among them, the analysis of the scale and causes of illegal logging in Russia and the development of an action plan to address the problem; research on the prevention of forest fires; introduction of FLEG principles in the practice of the leading Russian forest companies and their international trading partners; development and dissemination of successful models of sustainable and legal use of non-timber forest products in forest-dependent rural communities; and many others.Vladimir Soldatov, director of the Center for Forest Protection of Krasnoyarsk Krai noted that "the key achievement of the FLEG program at the regional level is the systematization and consolidation of the measures that the regions should take to combat illegal logging."
The past 10 years have not just seen positive changes; new challenges and problems have arisen as well. Head of Greenpeace’s Forest Program in Russia Alexey Yaroshenko, mentioned such of them as illegal appropriation of land for forest logging, which, according to him, has become a much more serious problem than the "theft" of the forest itself; a significant increase in bureaucracy; and inefficient system of financing forestry activities in the regions (in particular, measures to combat forest fires).
Following the meeting, a resolution was prepared, in which the participants developed recommendations to the Federation Council, the State Duma, the Government, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Federal Forestry Agency, Ministry of Industry and Trade, as well as public authorities and the Chambers of Commerce in the Russian regions.
Among them are recommendations on improving the legislation, promoting the responsible development of small and medium forest business, improving the system of training and retraining in the field of the protection and reproduction of forests, and others.