Globally 13 million hectares of forest are lost every year. Although the rate of loss has slowed down in recent years, it remains high. Most forest loss occurs in tropical regions. Deforestation and degradation affect forest-dependent communities, wild species and the global climate. To limit climate change and preserve biodiversity, it will be essential to reduce the rate of deforestation and forest degradation, increase the amount of carbon stored in forests and improve forest management. Human activities that drive forest degradation include overgrazing, demand for fuel wood and charcoal, excessive logging and human-induced fires. Natural causes of degradation include insect pests, storm damage and natural fires. The main driver of deforestation in the tropics is demand for land on which to grow crops or raise livestock. Other significant drivers of deforestation are mining, infrastructure development, urban expansion and logging (Geist and Lambin, 2002).
Illegal logging is the harvesting, processing, transporting, buying or selling of timber in contravention of national and international laws. It has a devastating impact on some of the world's most valuable remaining forests, and on the people who live in them and rely on the services and resources that forests provide. The environmental effects of illegal logging include deforestation, the loss of biodiversity and the emission of greenhouse gases. Illegal logging has contributed to corruption, funding of armed conflicts, human rights abuses and the worsening of poverty. Illegal logging undermines the legitimacy of the forest sector and hinders the efforts of governments to implement sustainable forest management. It is difficult to assess the extent of illegal logging. The World Bank estimates that governments worldwide lose between US$ 10 billion and 15 billion each year as a result of illegal logging – money that could be spent improving the lives of their people. (EU FLEGT Facility, 2015)
In response to tropical deforestation and forest degradation, governmental and intergovernmental organisations have developed instruments to foster sustainable forest management of tropical forests, of which two gained international recognition:
A first set of policy instruments aim to combat illegal logging and the trade in illegally sourced products. The 1998–2002 G8 Action Programme on Forests highlighted illegal logging as one of five issues affecting the world's forests. Since then, several initiatives to address the problem have been introduced by governments and the private sector. In response, the EU published the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan in 2003. One of the three proposed instruments are the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs), which are bilateral trade agreements between the EU and so-called VPA partner countries, with the aim to legalise the forest products trade in the partner countries.
The second policy development aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) as developed in the frame of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a payment for ecosystem services (PES). REDD has been on the agenda since 2005 and got formalised since the COP-16 Cancun agreements of 2010, further detailed with the Durban agreements COP-17 (2011) and the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. Agreed in 2013, the framework provides a clear set of rules which will enable countries to implement REDD+.
The emergence of a range of international forest regimes – with some overlaps and duplications – brings with it new questions of whether the different policy instruments act in isolation or how to coordinate policy instruments in ways that build effective and enduring forest governance. As part of international forest regimes, the EU FLEGT and the REDD+ are two distinct policy initiatives, operating under different design and implementation strategies. Policy scholars and practitioners have argued that the knowledge how FLEGT and REDD+ interact is necessary for harmonising the aims and implementation of the regimes and developing synergies and coordination between them. Also, this would be highly beneficial to speed up the national and location-specific implementation of FLEGT and REDD+ and increase their cost-effectiveness.
REDD+ and FLEGT inherently have options to support each other depending on in-country feasibility. Therefore the SAFARI project will investigate sustainable forest management (SFM) approaches to foster FLEGT and REDD+ interactions to strengthen forest policy coherence and improve forest governance.