Liberian 'conflict' timber faces trade ban

Last edited 7 May 2003 at 8:00am
7 May, 2003

7th May, 2003. Greenpeace today welcomed the United Nations Security Council's (UNSC) decision to end the role of the timber trade in fuelling the war machine of Liberian President Charles Taylor.

The UNSC decision, agreed last night, renewed existing embargoes on trade in arms and diamonds with Liberia and extended them to include a ban on all timber exports, with effect from 7th July 2003. The ban will affect trade in species including Liberian Azob, Sapelli, Iroko, African mahogany and African walnut'.

The imposition of timber sanctions follows intense campaigning by Greenpeace and other organisations (particularly the UK-based humanitarian organisation Global Witness) and sets an important precedent in combating the root causes of ancient forest destruction in West Africa.

Since 2000, Greenpeace has repeatedly researched and exposed the links between Liberian logging companies connected with illicit arms trading and timber traders throughout Europe and North America. Greenpeace has also repeatedly blocked shipments of Liberian timber going into European ports and called on timber companies to put an end to the trade in conflict timber.

A UNSC proposal to impose timber sanctions on Liberia had first been tabled in December 2000, however this was squashed by France and China the largest importers of Liberian timber (1).

To date many timber traders have chosen to ignore the evidence of links between Liberian timber and the arms trade, arguing that the UNSC does not seem to think there is enough of a problem to merit sanctions. These include UK based companies such as NHG timber and Glenmere timber, as well as the Danish based DLH and Dutch timber trader Wijma.

Greenpeace Forest Campaigner, Andy Tait said,

"International timber companies have cynically continued to trade Liberian timber for the past two years, despite clear and compelling evidence from Greenpeace and Global Witness linking Liberia's timber trade to illegal arms trafficking and environmental devastation",

He continued, "Today the Security Council has finally recognised this unconscionable trade in conflict timber. Starting from today, any company that continues to deal in Liberian timber does so in the full knowledge that they will be fuelling regional conflict and human rights abuses in West Africa."

Greenpeace is calling for action from consumers, trading partners and governments around the world to end their role in driving the illegal and destructive activities of unscrupulous forestry companies globally.

Notes to editors
"Conflict timber is timber that has been traded at some point in the chain of custody by armed groups, be they rebel factions or regular soldiers or by a civilian administration involved in armed conflict either to perpetuate conflict or take advantage of conflict situations for personal gain." Global Witness definition

1. Greenpeace International, Forest Crime File: Liberian Timber trade fuels regional insecurity (update) April 2003.

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