Consolidation of China-COMIFAC Relations – a Powerful COMIFAC-CBFP Delegation Visits China
COMIFAC and the CBFP Attend the Fourth International Conference on the Sustainable Development of Forests and Forest Product Markets They resume dialogue between COMIFAC/CBFP and SFA (National Forest Board) together with Mr Su Ming, Deputy Managing Director of SFA International Cooperation Centre, drafted a roadmap for the upcoming phases.
The Fourth International Conference on the Sustainable Development of Forests and Forest Product Markets took place in Shanghai, China from 22 to 23 June, 2011. COMIFAC and CBFP were represented at this Conference by: Ndaukila Godefroid, COMIFAC coordinator for the Democratic Republic of Congo, as representative of current COMIFAC President; Makon Samuel, Technical Adviser at the COMIFAC Regional Support Bureau; and Schipulle Hans, former CBFP Facilitator, as CBFP representative. During two days, over 300 participants at the Symposium listened to some thirty presentations moderated by eminent personalities from China, Russia, Canada, USA and some hand-picked Asian countries. These were followed by contributions and discussions on the following themes: (1) global governance and forestry policy (2) trends and perspectives in forest products market (3) how to protect legal and sustainable wood markets (4) Management of the forest product supply chain (5) the sustainable future of the industry (6) synthesis of global trends and results of the Conference.
It should be noted that as part of the application of the 2010 – 2012 CBFP facilitation roadmap, the partners entrusted the leadership in China - Africa dialogue to Germany.
The participation of COMIFAC and the CBFP in this meeting also had as main purpose the consolidation of relations between China and Central African countries with regards to the sustainable management of forest resources and the renewal of the dialogue and consultation started in 2007 on sustainable forest management in the Congo Basin where China's presence is rising rapidly – twelve lugging companies representing Chinese financial interests are currently operational in the area. To ensure these companies’ compliance with the principles of sustainable development, China has drawn up directives for their use. It is high time to see how these directives can be implemented. Another objective was to share Central Africa’s experience in conservation and sustainable management of ecosystems in keeping with its regional strategy (convergence plan) which for its part is the operational translation of the Head of States’ Yaounde Declaration of 1999. It should be recalled that these Congo Basin countries seem to have understood that measures which draw inspiration solely from macroeconomics interests to the detriment of ecological principles and the economic and social interests of forest communities do not provide any long term solution to forest management and conservation problems.
Judging by the presentations in Shanghai, however, it can be said that the wood market has undergone profound changes in the last two years, changes which can influence the orientation of Chinese companies in terms of their compliance with legal requirements, and the ecological and social certification of their products (and acceptance of the role of instruments like the EU’s FLEGT or the US’ Lacey Act). The rise in the purchasing power of a larger part of the population and urbanisation in China will in fact lead to a huge increase in demand for wood products. A lot now depends on ensuring greater responsibility of producers and traders as well as raising the awareness of Chinese consumers and these justify the actions of Chinese authorities in this domain. To these authorities, it is no longer a matter of securing the wood products market for Europe and the USA with their well documented legality requirements as was the case in the past. It is henceforth, a matter of promoting China’s reputation as a country committed to sustainable development, especially as concerns the fight against global warming and the preservation of biodiversity.
Reinforcement of China-COMIFAC Partnership
Alongside its participation in this conference, the COMIFAC/CBFP Delegation held a working session with Su Ming, Deputy Managing Director of the International Cooperation Centre, the arm of the Chinese SFA responsible for external relations. For four years now, Su Ming has been participating in several meetings with the CBFP as the main contact person on the Chinese side within the COMIFAC/CBFP – SFA dialogue forum. The COMIFAC/CBFP Delegation continued efforts initiated by the German Facilitation of the CBFP in recalling the increasing presence of China in the global economy which can also be observed in African forests where 85% of all logs exported from the continent are bound for the Chinese market. Concerning the ruthless war COMIFAC intends to fight against illegal forest exploitation, the Delegation highlighted the fact that many have signed the Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the European Union. In these Agreements, signatories undertake to export only wood with a traceable origine. It is highly recommended that China too enters into this kind of agreement with COMIFAC countries. Concerning certification, it can be said that COMIFAC and CBFP representatives recalled that COMIFAC supports the forest industry private sector in the in drawing up forest certification norms at regional and national levels. They revealed that over the past years, these measures have enabled FSC to certify close to five million hectares – a world record in natural forest certification. Open dialogue with Chinese companies operating in the Congo Basin and the Chinese government's commitment to encourage these companies to respect sustainable management principles in their concessions seem to have predisposed these companies to the respect of these requirements. “There is therefore no question of ending such a promising procedure, instead, means should be sought to continue while reinforcing them", they concluded, speaking on the issue of certification. Meanwhile, COMIFAC/CBFP Delegation also informed Su Ming of the firm desire of CBFP partners such as ITTO, Germany, France/AFD, UK/DFID, CE/EFI, IUCN, WWF, etc. to contribute to such initiatives with their technical and financial support.
Su Ming, in his speech, showed great appreciation for the efforts undertaken and the growing frequency of meetings. He underscored the necessity for a new dynamics in China-COMIFAC relations and proposed that COMIFAC engage official procedures with the African Union for the inclusion of the theme of “forests” in the high level China-Africa dialogue taking place within the purview of FOCAC on the one hand and at the Chinese ministry of foreign affaires on the other hand. This will help obtain the official authorisation of the Chinese government prior to SFA’s field work of adaptation to the sub-regional context, popularization through workshops and implementation of directives for Chinese operators, without leaving out the building of the capacities of the Chinese and local workers on the field. “This official go ahead shall also enable the organisation of a conference on sustainable development and the timber market, similar to the one organised in Shanghai for Asian countries, in China or better still, in Africa.” he advised.
“The Chinese, who are adept of table tennis game, seem to have thrown the ball into our court! It is thus up to us to act” Samuel Makon concluded in his mission report.
To learn more concerning this article, please download the Official Report of the COMIFAC-CBFP Mission to China and the Guide to Sustainable Extraction and Use of Forest Resources Overseas for Chinese Companies
"Congo Basin Forest Partnership – Options for Fostering the
Dialogue on Sustainable Forest Management and Trade between China and the Congo
Basin", Hans Schipulle et Makon Samuel, PFBC.
"China-Africa Timber Trade – Surveys of Chinese Enterprises and Trade Chain Analysis", Li Hong Fan, China Wood International.
Communication de la Commission UE sur la coopération trilatérale UE - Afrique – Chine (COM(2008)654 et SEC(2008)2641 (17.10.2008)
Mécanisme bilatéral UE-Chine de coordination relatif à FLEGT (30.01.2009)
Directives SFA Chine sur la Sylviculture
SFA China Directives on the Sustainable Management of Natural Forests