The President of Gabon has announced that by 2022 all forest concessions in Gabon will have to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
This has caused considerable consternation in trade circles particularly as some companies are already certified but under the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). The question yet to be answered is does this announcement truly reflect a policy shift by the government.
While there have been no statements from timber associations either in Gabon or in those countries with close trading links with Gabon, the statement by the President of Gabon has been welcomed by FSC (naturally) and by WWF.
A press release from FSC says “FSC appreciates this forward-looking decision by the government of Gabon.
Increasing the already important level of FSC certification in Gabon will serve as a catalyst to increase responsible forest management while stimulating external demand for responsibly sourced timber and forest products from Gabon. At the same time, FSC certification will benefit local communities and help protect Gabon’s unique wildlife and its natural resources.”
Marthe Mapangou, Director of WWF-Gabon, writes on the WWF website “The government’s decision to require FSC certification for all forest concessions is a positive step to protect Gabon’s forest ecosystems and to ensure benefits for local communities.”
An in-depth commentary on the announcement by the President of Gabon has been published by a Gabonese Non-Governmental Organization ‘Brainforest’ under the title ‘Analysis of the declaration of the Head of State concerning the withdrawal of permits to non-FSC certified companies by 2022’.
The focus of this analysis is, in the words of the author, Marc Ona Essangui, that “In a context of free competition, the State would be in its role by leaving to each forest concessionaire the possibility of freely choosing the system of certification which suits him.
Why favor the FSC system, to the detriment of PEFC or PAFC? Without becoming a critic of the FSC or defender of other repositories, it would be more just and equitable for the State to remain impartial by confining itself to a role of accompaniment and encouragement.
On the withdrawal of permits to non-certified companies: In the current state of national legislation, forest certification is not a legal requirement.”