Ministerial forest law enforcement and governance initiatives created the political “space” at national and regional levels to address the complex and politically sensitive issues related to illegal logging. Co-hosted by both “producer” and “consumer” governments and the World Bank, and in partnership with major stakeholders from civil society and the private sector, these ministerial-level political processes have aimed to mobilize international commitment from both producer, consumer and donor governments to increase efforts to combat illegal logging as well as the associated trade and corruption in the forest sector.
The first regional Ministerial Conference on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) took place in the East Asia and Pacific region in September 2001 in Bali, Indonesia. Subsequently, a ministerial process was instigated in Africa (Ministerial Conference, October 2003, Yaoundé, Cameroon) and Europe and North Asia (Ministerial Conference, St. Petersburg, Russia, November 2005):
- Although only 5% of the world's forests are located in Southeast Asia, the region accounts for nearly 25% of the global forest loss over the past decade – with illegal logging a major force driving this deforestation. At the East Asia Ministerial Conference on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) in Bali in 2001, the conference adopted the Bali Declaration, whereby participating countries committed themselves to, inter alia, intensify national efforts and strengthen bilateral, regional and multilateral collaboration to address forest crime and violations of forest law. A review of FLEG progress in Asia and the Pacific was published in June 2010.
- The Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (AFLEG) Ministerial Conference in Cameroon in 2003 resulted in the AFLEG Declaration and Action Plan (English/French). In the Declaration, governments expressed their intention to, inter alia: mobilize financial resources for FLEG; provide economic opportunities for forest-dependent communities to reduce illegal activities; promote cooperation between law enforcement agencies within and among countries; involve stakeholders in decision making; raise awareness of FLEG issues; and explore means of demonstrating the legality and sustainability of forest products.
- The Europe and North Asia Ministerial Conference on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance in 2005 brought together nearly 300 participants from 48 countries representing governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations including the World Bank. The Conference yielded the St. Petersburg Declaration (English/Russian), an expression of commitment by 44 governments from the ENA region and other participating countries to take action to address illegal logging and associated forest crimes. The participating governments also identified an Indicative List of Actions for the implementation of the Declaration, which are included as an annex to the Declaration.
With ministerial processes well under way, most of the focus has now shifted toward translating regional political commitment into projects and reforms at the regional and country levels. One such example is the ENPI FLEG program, funded by the European Union, which aims to support country level work and regional cooperation in the European Neighbourhood Policy Initiative East Countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), and Russia following up on the St. Petersburg Declaration. The World Bank is the lead implementing organization in partnership with IUCN and WWF.