Forest Certification in Papua New Guinea: Progress, Prospects and Challenges

Discussion Paper
Forest Certification in Papua New Guinea: Progress, Prospects and Challenges

Despite reform of forest law to embrace the concept of sustainable forest management and the development of a raft of subordinate regulations/guidelines to implement the Forestry Act, forests in Papua New Guinea (PNG) continue to be degraded by industrial-scale commercial logging operations. Numerous independent reports over the past two decades have highlighted the environmental degradation, the undermining of a valuable national economic resource, and the social disharmony caused by these operations, yet in recent years the government has sought to accelerate the granting of logging concessions. A small group of committed individuals and organisations have sought to build the capacity of Papua New Guineans to manager their forests for a variety of purposes, including commercial timber production, as a more sustainable, profitable and socially acceptable alternative to them handing over the timber rights through the Forestry Authority to logging companies. They have sought to use forest certification as a means to build the capacity of the traditional resource owners to manage their forests sustainably and to construct viable locally-based timber enterprises by linking with international markets for certified timber. This has proved a very difficult challenge because, inter alia, of the absence of government support and company interest in forest certification, most of the accessible forest has already been commercially logged, and because the resource owners are starting from a low financial base and have low awareness of how to manage their forests sustainably for production and how to manage a cash-based enterprise. Nevertheless, the proponents of forest certification in PNG have been successful in: creating pioneering "eco-forestry" models of community-based timber production and having these certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC); in exporting the certified timber; and in establishing FSC National Standards. They continue to face challenges to securing the economic viability of certified "eco-forestry", but their work provides invaluable knowledge for how more sustainable, economically beneficial and socially acceptable forms of forest management in PNG can be designed.

Yati A. Bun