“Open Door” to Traffickers – An EIA/AVG briefing about Malagasy rosewoods, ebonies and palisanders for CITES SC69

At COP17 in 2016, CITES parties approved a new Action Plan for Madagascar in an effort to assist the country to finally solve the country’s rosewood crisis and stop illegal trafficking in precious woods. The CITES Secretariat, as well as EIA and other observers had then found that the previous action plan, adopted in 2013, had still not been implemented. A year later, at the Standing Committee’s 69th meeting in 2017, EIA and AVG issue yet another update, the conclusions of which sound awkwardly identical to those at SC66 and 67

The government of Madagascar is still not fulfilling its commitments under the 2016 Action Plan outlined in Decisions 17.203-8 regarding its populations of ebonies, palisanders, and rosewoods. Despite substantial support from international organizations, the Malagasy government has failed to implement the key activities of the Action Plan, including a comprehensive stockpile assessment and effective enforcement measures against illegal logging and trade. Powerful timber barons, well connected to political elites, continue to walk free and are even running for the Senate, while civil society workers and local officials who try to stop the illegalities continue to be intimidated, harassed and incarcerated.

Instead of taking decisive action to end the illegal trade, Madagascar has repeatedly requested to sell its stockpiles and reopen the rosewood trade in recent years, and does so again in the document submitted to SC69. With upcoming presidential elections in 2018, the requests from Madagascar to SC69 are getting bolder and riskier: It proposes a “business plan” to dispose of its illegal stockpiles by paying alleged owners of illegal wood through an “open-door” approach. Over 7 million dollars of international money could thus land directly in the hands of illegal loggers and traffickers. In addition, Madagascar is asking the CITES Secretariat to “facilitate” the sales of precious woods that have been seized by countries such as Singapore, Sri Lanka or Kenya, in order to repatriate parts of the proceeds.

EIA and AVG Madagascar recommend that SC69:

• Adopt and reinstate the trade embargo on Malagasy precious woods

• Reject and fundamentally reconsider the premature and dangerous business plan for stockpile disposal

• Clarify the term “stockpile” in the Action Plan to cover both seized and unseized logs

• Prevent any sales of illegal logs outside of Madagascar, until save and transparent disposal plans are developed ensuring potential sales do not stimulate further illegal trade

Download EIA’s briefing, “Open Door” to Trafficking

Photo Credit: Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor for Mongabay