Illegal logging is an issue of major national and international concern, and combatting it depends of effective enforcement operations to ensire compliance and identify forest crime. This briefing paper examines the part that external agencies play in this work, and drawing on a number of recent experiences, consideration is given to the way in which independent monitoring might be structured, as well as some of the issues which need to be in mind when decisions are made as to what forms of monitoring to deploy. The document argues that independent forest monitoring (IFM) differs from other forms of external monitoring by the high levels of independence and impartiality which it requires. Campaigning and advocacy are largely incompatible with IFM, though they may often be useful in other forms of external monitoring. It also notes that recent IFM initiatives have created a momentum for reform, most notably through the injection of new information into national and international debates. There was evidence in some cases of increased discipline within the state enforcement agency and timber industry. Informants from producer countries were generally less appreciative of these benefits than those from consumer countries. It gives the following recommendations:
there is need to address the challenge of developing a constructive profile for IFM and associated activities that emphasise incentives for good forest management as well as the negative aspects of forest crime
IFM needs to be complemented by other activities to widen public engagement with the forest sector and to ensure pressure for its sound management
the regulatory function needs to be monitored at all relevant stages (concession allocations and the whole production and marketing chain), if the overall effectiveness of the system is to be secured
the simultaneous presence of one or more external monitors, in addition to the official IM(s), may facilitate the circulation of information, and keep up the pressure for systematic reform
attention needs to be given to the reporting framework within which the monitor works, and the validation of its findings through appropriate fora which widen ownership and accountability
in the case of donor-assisted IFM, a clear exit strategy may help create a positive working environment and ensure an emphasis on capacity building and the forging of institutional links and ownership.