PENANG (MALAYSIA) – Deforestation of Southeast Asian rainforests and logging-related human rights violations are major problems compounded by global over-consumption of tropical timber products and by inadequate laws, according to a new Friends of the Earth International report released today. 
The 151-page report, ‘Sustainable’ tropical timber production, trade and procurement’, questions forestry governance in Malaysia, especially in relation to indigenous peoples’ customary land rights, as well as ineffective timber regulatory measures in Japan, South Korea and Australia.
“We are witnessing a global depletion of natural timber resources and sustainable tropical timber remains essentially a mirage. Current laws and policies regulating timber production, export and import are often inadequate. They ignore the reality on the ground. For instance they ignore systemic corruption, violations of human rights, and unsustainable production and consumption patterns,” said Meenakshi Raman, Honorary Secretary of Friends of the Earth Malaysia.
The main findings of the report include:
1. The sustainability of the international tropical timber trade is still largely questionable. It took only around three decades for log production and export to rise, peak and fall in Malaysia. There are indications that today, the country’s natural timber resources have been largely depleted.
2. Malaysia’s claims on the sustainability of its timber production system are challenged by issues such as a lack of transparency in forestry governance, of an open timber license issuance process, and of the consent process of affected indigenous landowners.
3. Policy efforts on timber importation and procurement in the public or private sector in consumer countries tend to require that timber legality and sustainability be accepted on faith. They lack adequate understanding of the flaws of timber production systems and the realities on the ground for affected communities.
4. Key timber importer countries such as Japan and South Korea have failed to reduce their consumption of tropical timber products and have been unable to revive their domestic timber sector as an alternative source to tropical timber, resulting in a high reliance on cheap timber imports and deforestation, which cannot be justified by their afforestation abroad.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Shamila Ariffin, Research and Media Officer, Sahabat Alam Malaysia / Friends of the Earth Malaysia Tel: +60 4 228 6930
Junichi Mishiba, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth Japan
Tel: + 81 3 6907 7217
IN SOUTH KOREA:
Hyun Ji Kim, International Coordinator, Korean Federation for Environmental Movement / Friends of the Earth Korea Tel: + 82 2 735 7000
Derec Davies, International Liaison Officer, Friends of the Earth Australia
Tel: +61 421 835 587