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East African countries review implementation
of deal on illegal timber trade

DAR ES SALAAM (Xinhua) -- Representatives from across East Africa on Wednesday began a two-day meeting in the Kenyan capital Nairobi to discuss implementation of the Zanzibar Declaration on Illegal Trade in Timber and other Forest Products.

A statement issued by the Kenya Forest Service and availed to Xinhua said the meeting will also formally launch a steering committee on the implementation of the declaration.

The Zanzibar Declaration was signed in September 2015 during the XIV World Forestry Congress in South Africa and has been heralded as a huge step forward in regional efforts to address the rampant illegal timber trade in East Africa.

Member states currently include Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Madagascar, and mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar—under the umbrella of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Eastern African Community (EAC).

As well as launching the steering committee and reviewing progress with implementation of the declaration, member state forestry department representatives will also discuss a range of shared issues relating to timber trade, said the statement.

The statement said issues for discussion included the development of a mechanism to collaborate on implementation of trade governed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), including how to deal with produce seized from illegal trade.

At the most recent meeting of the Convention in October 2016, a number of relevant timber species—including the entire Dalbergia genus—were listed within Appendix II of CITES, meaning trade is now regulated through a system of permits.

Another critical issue for discussion will be laying the groundwork for a block agreement between signatories of the Zanzibar Declaration and importing countries in Asia, such an agreement could have major economic impact for the region given the high levels of timber trade currently taking place with East Asia, in particular China.

“This meeting marks a significant step forward in efforts to ensure timber trade in Eastern Africa is managed in a way that brings equitable benefits to all those engaged in the legal trade chain—everyone from the local communities on whose land the timber grows all the way to the end consumers in a distant part of the planet,” said Emilio Mugo, Chief Conservator of Forest with the Kenya Forest Service.

Meeting delegates will also discuss ways to standardize gathering of import, export and transit records, including the nomenclature of the species in trade, said the statement.

“Standardization of trade reporting mechanisms may not appear terribly important at first glance, but it is an absolutely critical issue,” said Said Hugues, Director of Forest Control in the Directorate General of Madagascar.

The meeting for the launch of the Steering Committee to the Zanzibar Declaration on Illegal Trade in Timber and other Forest Products was organized by TRAFFIC and WWF and hosted by Kenya Forest Service.

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