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Monitoring the forest sector in Nicaragua: plenty of evidence, more actions neededTags: south america deforestation enforcement transparency government IFM

A report published this week by Global Witness, the Independent Forest Monitor in Nicaragua, documents weaknesses in the management of forests that pose a serious threat to future environmental and economic security.

Despite budgetary limitations, the current administration of the Nicaraguan Forest Authority, INAFOR (Instituto Nacional Forestal) has made important efforts to improve the transparency and probity of the institution, but insufficient enforcement capacity prevails, which, coupled with long-standing poor practice on the ground, creates the conditions to leave the door open to illegal practices. The current INAFOR administration has expressed their commitment to combat this critical problem.

Having lost at least half of its forests over the last fifty years, deforestation in Nicaragua continues at an alarming pace. The reasons are multiple and complex: expansion of the agricultural frontier, poor forest management, institutional weaknesses in the forest administration, institutional and private sector corruption and illegal logging. Forest destruction impacts not only the environment but also the lives of people who depend on them for survival. Nicaragua still ranks amongst the poorest countries in Latin America .

Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) in Nicaragua started in August 2006 after a collaboration agreement was signed between the Monitor, Global Witness, and INAFOR in June of the same year. An INAFOR representative states in the report that IFM '[] has contributed to create an interest from the institution to bring more attention to the follow up and monitoring in the approved management plans'.

Through the implementation of field missions with INAFOR officials and other stakeholders from government institutions, civil society and the private sector, the Monitor has produced a total of fifteen individual mission reports, which present a disturbing picture of forest exploitation. Illegal activities documented by this joint effort with INAFOR include logging beyond boundaries, logging near water sources, logging trees that are not included in official management plans, inadequate or nonexistent demarcation of management areas and the breach of regulations related to the construction of logging-related infrastructures.

Commenting on the mission reports, David Young , Team Leader of IFM at Global Witness said 'These reports provide a strong body of evidence of both illegal operations and weaknesses in law enforcement capacity. The Nicaraguan forest authorities must continue to follow their stated intention to act against perpetrators; this will be a clear sign to the sector to follow the rule of law. It would also reinforce the process of improving transparency and accountability in the sector'.

The full report, as well as all individual field mission reports, are available in English and Spanish at http://www.globalwitness.org/pages/en/nicaragua.html.

For further information, please contact Laura Furones (.org).

© Global Witness (UK) -- 2008-01-10