SADC reviews forestry protocol implementation

SANF 17 no 16
Southern Africa has begun the process of assessing the status of implementation of the Protocol on Forestry to determine the level at which Member States have benefitted from regional cooperation in the forestry sector in light of emerging challenges and opportunities.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Forestry was signed in 2002 but came into force in 2009 after ratification by 10 countries – Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi and Seychelles are yet to accede to the Protocol.

The protocol aims to promote development, conservation, sustainable management and utilization of all types of forests, and trade in forest products.

It provides regional guidance for Member States on forest management, trade, assessments, policies, programmes and laws, as well as spells out the need for harmonisation of regional sustainable management practices and increasing efficiencies of utilization and facilitation of trade, among others.

Since the entry into force of the protocol, SADC Member States have developed, adopted and implemented a number of policy and legislative interventions in forestry management and trade across the region.

Concurrently, the forestry sector has witnessed significant developments across the region over the last decade.

Key developments that have occurred during the past few years and have necessitated a review of the protocol include the advent of a new era of a strong push towards regional economic integration that has witnessed an increase in the movement of goods and services, including those associated with natural resources.

As a result of this shift towards regional economic integration, the process for formulation, domestication and implementation of regional environmental and natural resources protocols has played a crucial role in addressing pressure points on improving regional forestry governance.

Robust economic growth in some countries has also seen increased demand for forest products, posing challenges on mechanisms to control intra-regional trade and forest governance. This has necessitated greater cooperation among Member States in forestry management.

Growth in illegal trade in timber within and across a number of SADC Member States and beyond the region has necessitated the need for collaboration among countries and between SADC and other regional economic communities such as the East African Community (EAC).

A number of bilateral agreements have been signed in recent years or are in the process of being developed as part of efforts to curb illegal trade in timber and improve forest governance. This presents an opportunity to form strong collaboration across Member States to improve forest management;

Several mechanisms have been piloted and implemented in SADC to improve forest management. These include the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Programme and the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme.

These initiatives have created opportunities for scaling-up and sharing of lessons across the region.

Another significant development over the past few years was the signing, in 2015, of the Zanzibar Declaration on Illegal Trade in Timber and other Forest Products. This declaration offers an opportunity to strengthen efforts to build relations within the SADC region and with the EAC Member States to improve forest management and trade.

According to the SADC Secretariat, these developments – and others – in the forestry sector in the region signal the need and opportunity for SADC Member States to revisit and harmonize the strategies, policies, and existing transboundary mechanisms.

It is against this background that the Secretariat has seen it fit to carry out the assessment of the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Forestry.

“The assessment is aimed at establishing the status of implementation of the Protocol on Forestry in light of emerging challenges and opportunities,” the SADC Secretariat said.

It added: “This assessment will also highlight the contribution and linkages of the SADC Forest Protocol to forest sector reforms in Member States.”

The overall objective of the assessment is to assess the extent to which SADC has achieved on the objectives set under the Protocol on Forestry such as development and harmonization of forest-related national laws and policies; as well as monitoring and development of mechanisms to promote trade in forest trade and cooperation among countries. SADC Today

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