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The Ambassador visits forest rangers in Raja Ampat

In October Ambassador Traavik visited the district of Raja Ampat in West-Papua.

This was his first visit to the Province and the welcome by a group of dancing youth in traditional costumes was much appreciated. The delegation from the Embassy spent the next couple of days travelling the district by boat together with the country director of United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and district forest rangers.

Raja Ampat has more than 1500 islands, and many of these are under protection status. As with the rest of the island of Papua, the region is famous for its unique biodiversity of both flora and fauna. Many of the islands have intact pristine forest and bird species such as the famous birds of paradise and the flightless cassowary.

It is both difficult and expensive to patrol and protect the forest and much illegal logging is occurring in Raja Ampat. Norway supports UNODC in strengthening law enforcement and detection of illegality in the forest sector, improve the capacity of prosecutors and judges, and support civil society's response to illegal logging and corruption. We have already seen results from this training. Recently, a high court ruling sentenced a police officer in Raja Ampat to 15 years in prison for his involvement in illegal logging and corruption. The case has caught a lot of attention in Indonesia as well as abroad.

Local forest rangers and representatives of the special forest and wildlife unit SPORC in the district said that lack of human capacity as well as financial resources is one of the big challenges to effective law enforcement in Raja Ampat. Only five forest rangers and five SPORC officers are available for patrolling the 28 protected areas in the district. Also, since many of the islands are in very remote areas and patrolling by boat is both expensive and time consuming, patrolling only occur twice a month at the most.

UNEP and Interpol estimates the global value of trade in illegal timber at 30-100 billion USD annually, or 10-30% of the global timber trade. UNODC has estimated that in South-East Asia alone, the illegal trade in timber is worth about 17 billion USD annually and in Indonesia around 5-6 billion.

Illegal logging in Indonesia is a major problem and a key driver of deforestation in many provinces across the country. Combating illegal logging and trade is therefore of key importance in the work that Indonesia is currently doing to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) – an effort that is headed by Indonesia’s REDD+ Agency and supported financially by Norway.