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Forest corruption: communities fight back

Climate change threatens the existence of millions of people today – and billions tomorrow. What if corruption gets in the way of the solutions?

Take forests for example. World leaders have committed billions of dollars to programmes aimed at keeping trees standing, but with many forest-rich countries notorious for public sector corruption, and the timber trade steeped in the black market, it’s easy for criminal logging to continue and forest protection money to go missing.

This is bad news for all of us, but the first and worst affected are the forest communities who have to watch on as their homes and livelihoods are destroyed.

This doesn’t have to be the case. With information, training and support, these same communities can lead the fight to keep trees standing. Our teams are at work around the world to make this happen.

Meet three communities taking action in Asia Pacific.

Indonesia: “I will share the information with the people who need it.”

A native of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, Alpian watched as loggers destroyed his community’s livelihood.

The locals – mostly fishermen – had to travel further away to find new jobs.

Those who were most affected were the least informed: “The people certainly weren’t involved in the process,” Alpian says.

It’s a familiar story: when decisions are taken behind closed doors, they benefit those in the room and ignore the many who are voiceless outside it.

This won’t happen again: trained in accessing public information, Alpian is campaigning to find out how decisions are taken – and now he wants his say in his community’s future.

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Papua New Guinea: “This is not fair on my people. We want justice.”

In Manus province, Papua New Guinea, a timber company never fulfilled its promises to a village under the terms of a logging agreement. But they’re still chopping down trees.

The community isn’t getting its side of the deal and yet the government renewed the loggers’ agreement – so who is benefitting? Locals are working with Transparency International to find out – and defend their rights.

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Vietnam: “The voice of people in our village is stronger now.”

In Quang Binh province, Vietnam, a government initiative pays villagers to protect forests and plant new trees.

But this is a remote part of the country, where literacy is low: many locals were not informed about the programme and unable to get the information they needed to reap its benefits.

A visit from Transparency International helped ensure that the project leaves no-one behind.

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A billion dollar danger

Deforestation is a leading cause of climate change – responsible for 20% of global carbon emissions.

To tackle the problem the UN has created an initiative called ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation’ – or REDD+ for short.

By providing alternatives for communities or businesses to keep trees standing rather than chopping them down, the UN hopes to increase the world’s chance of stopping climate change.

Money is pouring into the plan: it’s already worth more than $2.81 billion.

However, this initiative isn’t simple to manage. The forestry sector around the world is rife with corruption and we have already seen cases of so-called “carbon cowboys” claiming to protect forests whilst cheating communities out of their land and providing no benefits to the environment.

Protecting forests means keeping REDD+ clean, too. Learn more through our online learning course.

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