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2013 Assessment Findings

There has been limited progress in improving forest governance in Malaysia since 2010, although levels of illegal logging are much lower than in the other countries assessed. There remain a number of governance challenges to be resolved particularly in the state of Sarawak.

The level of forest sector governance varies quite significantly from one region of the country to another, as responsibility for forests is decentralised to state level. Concerns remain among stakeholders about the limited recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights by the government, as well as about corruption and the lack of transparency. Awareness of illegal logging and related trade is increasing in the private sector, although the area of natural forest concessions certified as being under sustainable production remained virtually unchanged during the period 2008–12.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has recently stepped up investigating corruption in the forest sector. In Sarawak, an intensified focus on combatting illegal logging could signal a turning point for the state’s forest sector. Progress with negotiating a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) with the EU has been slow, hindered in particular by concerns related to the recognition of the rights of indigenous communities.

More concerted efforts are required to tackle high-level corruption and the government should consider options for an independent monitor for the forest sector as a means of improving forest governance.

2010 Assessment Findings

The 2010 assessment found that there was less illegal logging in Malaysia than in the other four producer countries studied. However, both wood-balance analysis and the survey of experts suggested that illegal logging in Malaysia, at 14–25% of production, was more prevalent than commonly thought. A large part of the problem related to illegalities by licensed companies within their harvesting areas. No firm conclusions could be drawn on trends in levels of illegal logging in the country, though most experts in the survey believed some progress was being made.

Malaysia lacked the inconsistencies and conflicts in legislation seen in many other countries and it was making better use of available technologies and methodologies to detect illegal logging. It also had a very large (though static) percentage of its production forests independently certified as legal and sustainable.

However, the policy assessment found that there was large scope for improvement in the government response. In particular, a review and action plan on illegal logging were needed and timber tracking systems needed to be improved. Transparency also needed to be significantly increased as Malaysia was found to be the least transparent of the five producer countries examined. Other recommendations were for improvements to the systems for allocating rights to harvest and for better stakeholder engagement. Malaysia was engaged in formal negotiations with the EU for a VPA, but the negotiations had been slow and had brought about few improvements in government response at this time.