US government led investigation corroborates NGO report and plans to address systemic forest governance failures in Peru
In Washington DC, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) responded to a petition submitted by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) requesting the United States government take action under the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to stem the flow of illegally harvested timber into the United States. In April 2012, EIA released a multi-year investigative report, which revealed evidence demonstrating that since 2008 over twenty US companies have imported significant quantities of illegal wood from the Peruvian Amazon in violation of US and international endangered species laws as well as the US-Peru free trade agreement.
“The United States government led investigation into the allegations of systemic fraud and corruption in the Peruvian forest sector corroborated the findings of EIA’s report. The Government of Peru also acknowledges the existence of illegal timber harvest through both recent government reports and by taking action to close concessions,” said Kate Horner, Director of Forest Campaigns at EIA. “We welcome and appreciate the serious attention paid to EIA’s petition by the interagency team charged with evaluating it as well as the initial steps taken by the Government of Peru to improve management of its forest resources. Both the governments of the United States and Peru now acknowledge that significant challenges remain and have identified important steps that need to be taken to address the ongoing serious forest governance challenges.”
The US-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA) contains provisions to prevent illegal timber trade and support forest sector reform, including procedures to audit forest concessions and verify shipments of timber harvested and traded in violation of the law. EIA submitted evidence collected in a multiyear investigation to US authorities in April 2012 and called for an official investigation. The US led investigation now corroborates these findings and has identified a series of reforms needed to address this persistent governance challenge. The Contraloría General de la República – an independent governmental body in charge of monitoring and auditing the Peruvian government – recently conducted an audit of Peru’s forest sector covering a period up to December 2011 and found similar levels of corruption and lack of capacity as presented in EIA´s report which covered a period up to 2010.
“We remain concerned that to date no one has been held accountable for these serious violations of Peruvian law and of the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement. Illegal logging has been acknowledged by both governments for years now and yet we are not aware of any prosecutions for these serious violations of both US and Peruvian law,” said Julia Urrunaga, Peru Program Director for EIA. “We encourage both governments to proactively prosecute illegal timber harvest, which continues to negatively impact forests and livelihoods in Peru and around the world, in order to deter criminal activity. There needs to be real accountability to give meaning to yet another action plan.”