TNRC Knowledge Hub - Conservation Challenge: Illegal logging and associated trade

Combating Corruption Linked to Illegal Logging and Associated Trade

To address corruption that facilitates illegal logging and associated trade, promote increased transparency in land use and forest management decisions, and consider partnerships and new approaches to address how corruption may affect planned enforcement efforts and inclusive conservation approaches.

Does your work focus on addressing illegal logging and associated trade? Are you concerned that corruption is driving deforestation and illegal timber flows? This page outlines three steps to start building anti-corruption approaches into your conservation programming.

The Challenge

  • Corruption has been flagged as a critical factor in the loss of 420 million hectares of forests globally between 1990 and 2020.
  • Conventional responses focus on strengthening law enforcement to intercept illegal logging, illegal wood trafficking, and criminal syndicates who use corruption to their advantage. These interventions are essential but insufficient.
  • Reduce opportunities for corruption by advancing transparency in land use and forest management decisions and considering partnerships and new approaches to address how corruption may affect planned enforcement efforts and inclusive conservation approaches.

Three Steps to Follow

infographic of three steps

Step 1: Understand Corruption Get familiar with how corruption impacts conservation and ways to respond

Whether you have decades of experience or are new to the field, you may not know exactly where corruption risks lie, how they might be influencing your conservation outcomes, and what can be done about them. Start by taking the 90-minute eCourse below.

Step 2: Assess Your Situation Identify how corruption affects the objectives of your own programming

Best results will come from layering interventions at multiple risk points. The first step is to think about who has power in your implementing context. You can then start to identify drivers and facilitators of corruption and entry points for—as well as limitations on—change. The resources below will help you to ask the right questions and identify those risk points.

La Chorrera indigenous community and WWF-Colombia

Situation Analysis

Learn more about assessing the threats that corruption may pose to conservation objectives and identify responses that are appropriate to your specific context.

Step 3: Adapt Your Programming Consider approaches that fit your needs

Consider whether some of the programming avenues below would help to address your challenges. Take a moment to read these principles for getting started from recent experience testing anti-corruption approaches in various contexts.

Remember: Evidence suggests that targeting corruption through multiple approaches yields best results.

  • Timber transported by train
    Is corruption systemic in forest sector supply chains and you’re unsure where to target conservation interventions?

    Prevent bribery and laundering of illegal wood into supply chains

    Explore the Supply Chains Guide
  • Law enforcement officials confiscating elephant tusks
    Is corruption in law enforcement and the criminal justice system impeding progress?

    Strengthen integrity in law enforcement and the judiciary

    Explore the Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice Guide
  • Landscape photo of city skyline at night
    Are higher-level actors like organized criminals and corrupt officials escaping consequences?

    Target high-level actors, including those connected to corrupt concessions, by following the money

    Explore the Illicit Financial Flows Guide

Illustration of computer and its functionality© RadiasaTutorial Rti / Vecteezy

Case Study: Harnessing big data to uncover and report corruption in the forestry sector

Reducing deforestation and ensuring legal and sustainable forest supply chains requires tackling corruption at multiple levels—starting with the point of access. Politically-exposed persons (individuals entrusted with a prominent public function) may award contracts and permissions to entities in exchange for private gain, such as bribes to themselves or via corporate vehicles or contacts from which they derive beneficial ownership or other advantageous control. Big data, including publicly accessible open data, has strong potential to identify such corrupt actors. TRAFFIC has piloted a new methodology for analyzing open data to uncover possible corruption in the forestry concession process involving public officials and/or their associates. Information packages are reported to national Financial Intelligence Units that have the power to freeze accounts and block transactions if further screening determines it to be warranted. This new data-mining approach is being applied to two countries in Latin America and Europe (TNRC Research 2021-2023).

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Image attribution: © / Jen Guyton / WWF; © Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF; © Georgina Goodwin / Shoot The Earth / WWF-UK; © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus