The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched a new online portal providing information on forest-related laws around the world in order to help promote legal forest management, timber production and trade, and contribute to efforts to make forest resource use sustainable.
The first such portal of its kind, developed with support from the Japanese Government, TimberLex provides information on legislation relating to forest management, timber production and trade from 46 timber consumer, processing and producer countries.
Illegal logging and related trade are estimated to account for ten to 30 per cent of the global timber trade – or 30 to 100 billion US dollars annually – and impair poverty alleviation, food security and climate change mitigation while undermining efforts to manage forests sustainably. In an effort to address this issue, major wood-consuming countries are increasingly imposing requirements for timber imports to document their legal status.
"One of the challenges to promoting legality and transparency in the timber trade is knowing what regulations are in place that may impact actions along the value chain, as each country's legal system is, of course, unique," stated Daphne Hewitt, Manager of the FAO-European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme.
"It can be very challenging for timber producers, exporters, importers and regulators in timber exporting and importing countries to find reliable information on national legal requirements around timber legality," Hewitt added.
"By making information on national legislation related to forest management, production and associated trade easily available, TimberLex will help verification and due diligence efforts world-wide," said Blaise Kuemlangan, Chief of the Development Law Service of the FAO Legal Office.
"The unique selling point of the portal is the user-friendly nature which allows easy access to national legislation in three languages," Kuemlangan added.
The TimberLex portal points users to specific measures and verbatim citations within legal texts and allows easy and direct comparison between legal frameworks. Country profiles catalogue legislation around four clusters encompassing the different stages of the timber value chain considered critical to the legality of timber: land tenure and forest management, timber harvesting activities, processing, transport and trade, and taxes and fees.
The portal aims to enable more effective law enforcement and contribute to improving forest governance, curbing illegal deforestation and associated forest degradation, and promoting global production and trade in legal timber.
The database is aimed at legislators, policy-makers, forestry departments and law enforcement officers, private sector producers, processors and traders, civil society and non-government organizations.
TimberLex is a branch of FAOLEX, administered by the Development Law Service of the FAO Legal Office. According to FAO, FAOLEX is the world's largest electronic collection of national laws and regulations on food, agriculture and renewable natural resources.