April 16, 2002 – On Friday 19th April the Indonesian and UK Governments are expected to announce a historic agreement to combat the trade in illegal timber products between the two countries. The UK Department for International Development is expected to hold a press conference on Friday in London with Indonesia’s forests minister. Forest campaigner Farah Sofa Friends of the Earth Indonesia (known as WALHI) will be in the UK on 18th and 19th April and available for interview and comment.

This will be the first ever bi-lateral agreement on illegal timber and the first the UK’s Labour government has signed on an environmental matter. Other governments are known to have shown an interest in devising similar bilateral agreements.

The announcement will follow extensive campaigning by Friends of the Earth and others, both in Indonesia and in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Friends of the Earth Indonesia has had a longstanding campaign on forests – highlighting the devastating impact of the trade on communities and their forests in Indonesia. Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland has recently exposed the corporations profiting from the destruction of Indonesia’s forests. UK corporations have been challenged such as Barclays, HSBC, Morgan Stanley and hundreds of others investing and trading in Indonesian forest corporations (APP and APRIL) without regard to the social and environmental impact.

FOE campaigning in 1999 resulted in the UK government changing its timber purchasing policy following the exposure of the MoD purchasing illegally-sourced Brazilian mahogany for panelling warships.

Friends of the Earth estimates that 73% of logging in Indonesia is illegal, contributing heavily to 2 million hectares of deforestation per year, an area of primary forest loss equivalent to the size of Belgium. Friends of the Earth has calculated that the UK imports from Indonesia approximately 540,000 cubic metres of illegally-sourced timber per year (round wood equivalent), worth £76 million. The UK is the biggest importer of Indonesian timber in Europe. Indonesia is also the UK’s number one source for tropical timber products. The UK tops the league in the EU for importing illegally-sourced material – with around 60 per cent of all tropical timber likely to be illegally sourced.

On Friday Indonesian and UK NGOs will be distributing statements outlining their views on the agreement. Campaigners will be looking for the agreement to address the rights of forest-dependent communities, the over-capacity of timber processing and the accountability of corporations profiting from Indonesian forestry as well as addressing corruption, enforcement and consumption issues.

Ed Matthew, Forests Campaigner at Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland
mobile +44 (0) 7810 558249.
Farah Sofa, Forests Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Indonesia, mobile +62 (0)811 152 053