Europe contributes two-thirds of the world’s bilateral assistance for tropical forests and the European Commission itself is a major forestry donor. Thus, how European countries organize their aid programs and their thematic and geographical priorities greatly influence developing countries’ forest management.
Most of us, however, find it practically impossible to keep track of the specific policies of each of the European Union’s fifteen member states, not to mention the four European Commission directorate generals that also fund forestry projects.
Fortunately, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London has done our home work for us. Its new ’EU Forestry Sourcebook’ edited by Gill Shepherd, David Brown, Michael Richards, and Katherine Schreckenberg provides a readable and comprehensive review of the topic, taking us behind the scenes of the various aid agencies and offering many useful insights into their operations.
According to the authors, public concern about tropical forests led to greater funding for tropical forests over the last decade, but that trend many not continue.
The three largest European forestry donors in 1995 were Germany ($US 166 million), the European Commission ($US 86 million), and the Netherlands (US$80 million). The United Kingdom, France, and Sweden spent between $US 36 million and $US 49 million each. Denmark and Finland each gave $US 16-18 million.
Many aspects of the current French, British, and Dutch involvement in tropical forest issues can be traced back to their colonial past. Commercial forestry interests initially motivated Swedish and Finnish assistance.
The only European governments that still directly employ a large number of full-time tropical forestry experts are Germany, the United Kingdom, and France. Germany’s GTZ has 115 experts working as field staff in forestry and conservation projects. The British Department for International Development (DFID) has around 80 technical cooperation officers in forestry. France has 500 technical cooperation employees involved in natural resources issues, of whom 25 specialize in forestry. The other countries rely mostly on consulting firms, NGOs, and universities for their technical forestry advice.
European forestry assistance has moved away from its initial emphasis on industrial timber production and processing towards sustainable forest management, collaborative management, and non-timber forest products. Less support is going to afforestation and agro-forestry and more to institutional development and policy issues. Since 1992, European donors have strongly committed themselves to conservation.
European donors focus their aid on so-called ’priority’ or ’concentration’ countries, selected on the basis of previous colonial ties, poverty, and human rights records. This has led many donors to concentrate on a rather small number of countries, many of which do not have sufficient institutional capacity and trained professionals to effectively interact with large numbers of competing aid agencies.
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