Nicaragua: Global Witness raises doubts over legality of FSC certified operations

The most recent report of the official Independent Forest Monitor in Nicaragua, the London-based NGO Global Witness, has once again called into question the ability of FSC’s accredited certifiers to detect illegalities in certified forestry operations. The December 2007 report notes that “The Monitor was not able to detect a significantly different level of legal compliance between certified and uncertified forest”.

Global Witness has directly accused one of the certified operations, Hermanos Ubeda, of illegal logging. The company was one of the ‘partners’ of the World Bank-WWF Forest Alliance.

Extracts from ‘Independent Forest Monitoring in Nicaragua: Second Summary Report of Activities August 2006 – September 2007’

In Nicaragua, the certification of forest management is still not common practice among logging companies. Some certification agencies and organisations that provide assistance to achieve sustainable forest management are present in the country, such as Rainforest Alliance, SCS (Scientific Certification Systems) and WWF. Some of these entities issue certification under Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) regulations.

Of the management permits inspected, two are subject to forest certification and a further two are working towards certification. The Monitor was not able to detect a significantly different level of legal compliance between certified and uncertified forest, and although it does not have any evidence to explain the causes of this situation, it is possible that the certification agencies are not rigorous in evaluating forest management activities or that the technical personnel in charge of these are not complying with this evaluation fully. It is necessary for these companies to have a thorough and detailed knowledge of the Nicaraguan Obligatory Technical Norm (NTOPN) and the administrative regulations for forest management in the country, so that they do not support logging companies that are breaching these in one way or another, as was the case with the company Hermanos Úbeda [certified by SCS] and their forest management plan in the municipality Desembocadura del Río Grande in RAAS (see report No.15).

Officials from both WWF and SCS have been receptive to the findings presented in the reports and have stated their intention to improve the monitoring of management permits that are subject to certification. In this respect, the Monitor has supported good practice by providing reliable, impartial information on problems discovered in the field, offering recommendations on how to address such problems.


The certification agencies should take the following steps:

*Check that the certification of logging companies in Nicaragua leads to the implementation of sustainable forest management practices.

*Ensure that forest companies that have been certified, or are in the process of being certified, meet all the criteria established by both the FSC’s general principles and Nicaraguan forest legislation.

*Promptly cancel the certification of any companies whenever found to be in breach of the said criteria and legislation.

The full Global Witness report is available here.


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