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The Global Forest and Trade Network

by Mark Hurley
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Photo by Rick Toupin, USDA Forest Service
Harnessing market forces through certification and forest product purchasing is an important way to protect the rich biological diversity of the world's rainforest.
Mark Hurley is a senior program officer in the forest conservation program at the World Wildlife Fund in Washington, DC. He acts as communications coordinator for the World Wildlife Fund's Global Forest and Trade Network.
Imagine yourself suddenly dropped into an African rainforest. On the forest floor, you can see and hear an amazing variety of life-plants, insects, birds, even a distant troupe of gorillas. In fact, Congo Basin rainforests are some of the richest sources of life on Earth.

But the unspoiled forest is rapidly shrinking. Although critical for conservation, protected areas will not be enough to conserve the rainforest's biological richness. If forests continue to deteriorate, the biodiversity of Congo Basin rainforests could be irreparably harmed-at an untold cost to the world.

Much of the threat comes from illegal or poorly planned logging encouraged by weak legal frameworks, poor law enforcement, and lucrative markets. Companies in West and Central Africa produce almost a third of the world's export logs, and many of them are becoming concerned about the impacts of unsustainable forestry on their own future prospects.

That's why the World Wildlife Fund founded the Global Forest and Trade Network, with funding from the Sustainable Forest Products Global Alliance. The network helps transform markets to sustain both forests as well as the businesses and people that depend on them.

The Global Forest and Trade Network works with companies from across the supply chain to improve forest management and eliminate illegally logged and traded forest products. One tool is certification. Through credible certification programs, the Global Forest and Trade Network aims to improve both forest management and forest product purchasing.

Partnerships are key. The Global Forest and Trade Network creates mutually beneficial partnerships between businesses, nongovernmental organizations, trade regulators, funders, and others. The partners mobilize the technical, financial, and human resources necessary to improve forest management, focusing on forests that are both globally valuable and threatened. The USDA Forest Service can offer information, training, and technical assistance in such areas as forest monitoring and reduced-impact logging. The goal is to help producers minimize the environmental impact of their field operations and improve their economic efficiency.


Photo by Curtis Day, USDA Forest Service
The Global Forest and Trade Network transforms markets to sustain both forests whose future hangs in the balance and local communities.

The Global Forest and Trade Network encompasses individual forest and trade networks worldwide. Each network consists primarily of companies committed to practicing or supporting responsible forestry and achieving certification. About 20 individual networks operate in nearly 30 nations throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

Though united by shared goals, the individual forest and trade networks differ in orientation. Some, called buyer groups, are demand oriented. They consist mainly of retailers, distributors, and specifiers of forest products. Others, called producer groups, are production oriented. Members include forest owners and managers, processors, and manufacturers. Each member has achieved credible certification or is committed to making its forest management or purchasing policies increasingly responsible.

Strategic growth is planned. In 2004, the Global Forest and Trade Network intends to establish forest and trade networks in South America, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. By the end of 2005, the network will consist of almost 30 individual forest and trade networks with more than 500 members.

The future of the world's forests hangs in the balance. The Global Forest and Trade Network helps the companies that dominate the global forest products industry fulfill their commitments to responsible forest management and purchasing. By transforming markets while promoting business, the Global Forest and Trade Network is leading the way in protecting the life of forests for generations to come.

Sustainable Forest Products Global Alliance
The Sustainable Forest Products Global Alliance is a private/public partnership to promote sustainable forest management worldwide, reduce illegal logging, and improve the well-being of local communities. Partners include the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Wildlife Fund, Metafore (a nonprofit organization that promotes business practices contributing to forest conservation), and Forest Trends (a nonprofit organization that advances sustainable forestry and poverty alleviation worldwide). The USDA Forest Service provides on-the-ground technical assistance to these and other partners.

The U.S. Agency for International Development initiated the Global Alliance in May 2003 with an investment of $3.5 million. The partnership leveraged the initial funding for a one-to-one match. So far, the partners have contributed $8 million to achieve their mutual goals, including $1 million from The Home Depot, the world's largest home improvement retailer.

But it takes more than just money. The Global Alliance capitalizes on a unique combination of market intelligence, technical expertise, and specific country knowledge to train forest managers in innovative logging approaches while increasing their access to international markets. The Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Andrew S. Natsios, summed it up: "This partnership has enormous potential to curb the environmental destruction associated with illegal logging in producer countries while contributing to the economies of both producer and consumer countries."


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