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Generally, it can be observed that the problem of illegal logging in Belarus is not as severe as in many other countries of this region. Over the last five years the number of forest-related offences has been steadily decreasing as a result of a number of official measures to combat illegal activities in the forest sector. Belarusâ€™ Constitution determines that all forests are owned entirely by the state; the Ministry of Forestry of the Republic of Belarus is the primary designated government agency responsible for forest utilization, reproduction, conservation and protection.
As a result of active and comprehensive measures taken by the state, illegal logging in Belarus does not have a sizeable impact on forest utilization. More common though are cases of illegal timber sales spurred by improper valuation of logging sites and poor recording of harvested timber. This creates conditions for the emergence of unrecorded timber to a shadow market. Responding to this problem, the Ministry of Forestry together with other government authorities and non-governmental organizations are actively involved in developing continuous efforts aimed at preventing the illegal timber trade.
Another important aspect that tells about Belarusâ€™ steady headway towards internationally recognized standards in the forest sector is the forest certification process which is one of the key integral criteria of forest sector performance. This is a voluntary process pursued by forest management companies and organizations wishing to obtain an internationally recognized proof of legality for their operations. The Ministry of Forestry of Belarus is planning to complete certification of forests under its management by 2011.
Following approval of the FLEG Program country workplan in December 2009, a range of core activities for Belarus have been identified and consolidated in 4 main areas:
- Improvement of the FLEG regulatory framework and efficiency of its enforcement;
- Improvement of the system of forest management, protection and utilization of forest products recording;
- Integration of concrete FLEG processes in local forest management and utilization practices;
- Improvement of information transparency of the FLEG processes.
The Belarus Program Coordination Team has established, and maintains, very constructive working relations and consultations with other program countries PCTs (Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) which enables efficient experience sharing and exchange of information. The PCT has also built on a productive relationship which already existed between the World Bank mission and the Ministry of Forestry of Belarus; the country FLEG focal point in Belarus is the Deputy Minister of Forestry Mr.Yushkevich. The latest PCT meeting took place at the beginning of February 2010 in Minsk where participants held extensive discussions on the Program implementation details.
The FLEG Program has also developed good contacts with the press-secretary of Belarusâ€™ Ministry of Forestry and editor-in-chief of the Belarus magazine â€śForestry and hunting,â€ť which will facilitate promotion of the Programâ€™s image throughout the country and among stakeholders.