The New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) is a partnership of governments, multinational companies, civil society and indigenous peoples working to halve deforestation by 2020 and to end it by 2030. The NYDF outlines ten ambitious global targets focused on the protection and restoration of forests. Through Goal 10 of the NYDF, the organisations that endorsed the NYDF commit to strengthen forest governance and transparency, empower local communities, and recognise the rights of indigenous peoples.

Published today, the NYDF Progress Assessment Report on Goal 10 presents the main conclusions of a multi-partner assessment of progress towards this goal. As a NYDF Assessment Partner, ZSL SPOTT encourages all parties engaged in forest governance reform to absorb and act on the findings of the report – including the private sector, which can take a lead in adopting best practices.

Accountability and transparency for better governance

The NYDF Goal 10 Report highlights the importance of accountability and transparency to achieve better forest governance. In particular, it stresses that vague, incomplete, and opaque reporting on company zero-deforestation policies is undermining the foundations of good forest governance – with the majority of companies operating within forest-risk commodity supply chains failing to adequately report progress against their zero-deforestation commitments.

The latest SPOTT assessments of tropical timber and pulp producers published in July 2018 reflect this finding, with more than half of companies assessed shown to have lower transparency (an overall SPOTT score of less than 33%), while only five companies out of 50 scored higher than 66%. At the same time, SPOTT shows that engagement by the finance sector, civil society, and other actors can help to increase the quality and quantity of corporate disclosures – in total, 17/24 (71%) of the timber and pulp companies assessed on SPOTT in 2017 increased their score in 2018.

Rights of indigenous peoples and local communities

Indigenous peoples and local communities rely on forest ecosystems for their livelihoods and greatly contribute to the preservation of forests and climate change mitigation. However, the NYDF Goal 10 Report finds that the rights of these groups are rarely fully protected, so threatening livelihoods and leaving forests at risk of loss and degradation. At the same time, weak recognition of tenure rights, failure to respect the principle of free, prior and informed consent, and growing demand for land has led to increasing violence against communities and indigenous peoples.

SPOTT encourages companies to commit not only to respect indigenous people and local communities’ rights, but also to adopt best practices in their engagement with such groups. Currently, 70% of timber and pulp companies assessed on SPOTT in 2018 have a public commitment to respect indigenous and local communities’ rights, yet only 16% have a full commitment to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of these groups prior to all new developments. Timber and pulp producers must move to strengthen their policies on engaging with indigenous people and local communities’ if forests and livelihoods are to be protected.

Focusing on legality and gender

A key message from the NYDF Goal 10 Report is the role of illegal activities in driving deforestation. The devastating impacts of illegal logging have led to action on the part of consuming countries to prohibit the import and trade of illegal wood products – including the EU Timber Regulation which is part of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. The Action Plan also seeks to increase the capacity and timber legality assurance systems of producer countries. In light of these developments, companies in the tropical forestry sector must ensure that they can meet growing global demand for forest products while operating legally and sustainably.

In 2019, SPOTT will be looking more closely at legality in timber production and trade – including the development of new, country-specific indicators on legality and increased engagement with companies operating in countries working to reform their forest governance through EU FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs). SPOTT will also for the first time engage with Chinese timber traders sourcing from Africa, to encourage enhanced due diligence from these significant supply chain actors. Workshops will be held with industry representatives, civil society, and government stakeholders in Cameroon, Gabon, Republic of Congo (RoC), Indonesia, and China, to highlight the role of transparency in supporting improved forest governance. 

The NYDF Goal 10 Report also points to a significant gender bias against women in forest governance. In forest-related matters, women are found to be poorly represented in policy making processes and tend to have less access to justice. To support efforts towards increasing the participation of women, ZSL will explore whether new indicators on gender issues can be included in the SPOTT indicator framework to encourage increased private sector action.

For further information on the latest SPOTT assessment results and our future plans – including our upcoming workshops, please contact the SPOTT team.