, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 6 – African member states will establish a secretariat to oversee the effective implementation of the Zanzibar Declaration and Bilateral Timber Trade Agreements, with Zambia also becoming a signatory.
Member states of the declaration are Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Madagascar, mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar, under the umbrella of Southern African Development Community and the East African Community.
They agreed that a secretariat should effectively manage the day-to-day activities pertaining to implementation.
The Head of Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC) Julie Thomson, said the action points were arrived at after analyzing common challenges faced by countries involved in timber trade.
“We are looking at current initiatives and deliberating on future actions to be taken,” she said.
The announcements came following a meeting hosted by the Kenya Forest Service and Worldwide Fund of Nature (WWF) to build on the commitments made in the Zanzibar Declaration on Illegal Trade in Timber and Forest Products that was finalized and signed in September last year at the 14th World Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa.
Establishment of a Steering Committee composed of high-level officials with the capacity to ensure political and government buy-in to implement the agreed declaration actions was also among the agendas agreed.
They agreed the Steering Committee will include specialized sub-committees comprised of members with technical knowledge (e.g. forestry, law enforcement, customs) to facilitate implementation of a regional action plan.
As the host country of this year’s forum, KFS agreed to host the Secretariat for 2016-2017, with TRAFFIC and WWF providing financial and technical support to help finalize the regional action plan.
WWF’s Regional Forest Programme Coordinator for Eastern Africa Geoffrey Mwanjela said the Zanzibar Declaration was a huge step forward in regional efforts to address the illegal timber trade that robs local communities and national governments of significant income each year.
“Now those commitments are in place, today is the time to turn the declaration’s words into action,” he added.