Remarks at Opening CeremonyJeffrey M. Burnam
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Ministerial Conference, October 13-16, 2003
October 16, 2003
Minister Tanyi, thank you for your excellent hospitality and fine work in organizing this conference. Thanks also to the World Bank, to COMIFAC and to the many expert speakers and representatives of government, civil society and the private sector who have joined together to organize and produce this informative and important meeting.
This Ministerial is aimed at mobilizing high-level political commitment to strengthening capacity for forest law enforcement and governance in Africa with a focus on illegal logging and associated trade. It is aimed at helping governments to address issues of corruption in the forest sector and to ensure transparency in the administration of law.
The administration of President Bush has taken a keen interest in international conservation. Under our administration, funding for the Tropical Forest Conservation Act has doubled and two new forest conservation initiatives have been launched -- the Congo Basin Forest Partnership and the Presidentís initiative to help developing countries address the problem of illegal logging and associated trade, including wildlife issues. Both initiatives are well funded in the U.S. Government budget. The Congo Basin Forest Partnership is funded at $53 million over 4 years. This year the Presidentís Initiative Against Illegal Logging is budgeted at approximately $15 million. These initiatives are aimed at producing concrete results on the ground and involve partnerships between governments, international organizations, NGOs, and the private sector to achieve these results.
These initiatives build upon the commitments made here in Yaounde in 1999, when Heads of State from the countries of the Western Congo Basin committed themselves to work together to protect areas of high biodiversity and incredible wildlife, to sustainably manage forest resources and to provide economic opportunities for local residents. The vision of these Heads of State and their foresight in recognizing the need for regional cooperation and for partnership with NGOs, the private sector, and international organizations cannot be too highly praised. One of the key leaders in this region, as you know, is Republic of Congo Environment Minister, Henri Djombo, who addressed us this morning. We are all grateful for his vision, his energy and his determination.
Forest law enforcement and governance are the foundation upon which all real forest conservation must rest. Government must have the will and the capacity to administer and enforce their forest and wildlife plans, to effectively manage parks and protected areas and to ensure that forest concessionaires respect the law.
The United States Government believes that it can assist the governments of Africa in this regard. We and the NGOs that we work with in this region have expertise that we would like to share. We can provide technical and capacity building assistance, help in promoting eco-tourism, expertise in park and forest management, landscape planning, and assistance to local communities, who must be actively involved in any successful forest conservation project. We can offer satellite imaging and remote sensing technologies, to be shared in a transparent manner, that can help African nations to monitor forest trends, roads, and logging camps. We are committed to international cooperation on timber trade issues.
Your forest and wildlife resources are of global significance. Their protection, conservation, and sustainable use are essential not only to economic development but to the quality of life in Africa and indeed in the world.
From the standpoint of the United States, the AFLEG is based upon the sovereign responsibilities of all nations to protect, develop and conserve their natural resources for the benefit of future generations. At this Ministerial, each government has made a commitment to enforce its own laws and to cooperate internationally on these matters.
I hope that this gathering and this Ministerial will lay a solid foundation for further progress in forest and wildlife law enforcement and administration. The significance of this meeting will depend upon the results that it produces and encourages. Commitments are important only to the extent that they lead to concrete actions by all of us to address the difficult and complex issues that we have discussed this week.
Released on October 20, 2003