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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Gabon

The constitution of Gabon features provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 1(8) reads: “The State, according to its means, guarantees to all the protection of health, social security, a preserved natural environment, rest and leisure.”
In a related vein, Article 47 reveals that the law fixes the rules concerning:

  • The regulations over land, property, forest, mining, and the environment
  • The protection of nature and the environment

  • Finally, Article 103 states that The Social and Economic Council, governed by the dispositions of articles 8 paragraph 3, 28 paragraph 1, and article 53, has authority over all the aspects for economic, social and cultural development and environmental policies.

    Featured Legislation

    1993: The Environmental Code (Law No 16/93) was passed, providing basic national principles that should guide national policy in the protection and improvement of the environment. The law addresses:

    • The conservation and sustainable use of Gabon’s natural resources
    • The fight against pollution and nuisance
    • The improvement and protection of the living environment
    • The promotion of new values ​​and income generating activities using the natural environment
    • The  harmonization of development with environmental conservation

    2001: The Forest Code (Law No 16/01) was enacted to govern forests and exercise management on public lands in Gabon. The main goals of the 2001 Forest Code are to foster:

    • The sustainable development of forests
    • The industrialization of the Gabonese timber sector
    • The sustainable conservation of natural resources
    • Greater local stakeholder involvement in the management of Gabon’s natural resources

    2008: Act No. 22 and Act no. 23 were brought into force to improve the legal framework governing the agricultural sector.

    2011: The National Observation System for Natural Resources and Forests (SNORF) was created to to effectively monitor, evaluate and adapt Gabon’s low emissions development activities in the Land-use, Land-use change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector, including sustainable forestry, management of protected areas and buffer zones, agricultural expansion, and land-use planning.

    2012: National Climate Plan.In order to reconcile the “Gabon Emergent” project and sustainable development, particularly in its climate dimension, Gabon has drawn up its National Climate Plan. The National Climate Plan is based on knowledge of the potential resources available to Gabon and respect for the principles of sustainable development, good governance and intergenerational equity in the exploitation of Gabon’s natural resources. This plan is based on sectoral strategies for controlling GHG emissions; the territory’s adaptation strategy to the effects of climate change; the mechanism for implementing and monitoring the actions of the climate plan; and major plan financing options.

    2013: The National Action Plan to Fight against Illegal Forestry Exploitation (PANEFI) was created as a concrete means of fighting illegal logging through investigations, arrest operations and strict legal follow up of the prosecution thanks to the assistance of the forces of law and order and the justice system to the Ministry of Forestry.

    2014: The Sustainable Development Law was approved. The law introduces credits not only for carbon or biodiversity, but also for ‘community capital’ such as:

    • Community lands
    • Crops
    • Water resources
    • Culture
    • Education

    2015: The Mining Code was signed into law, governing the prospecting and exploration of iron, copper, diamonds and other minerals.

    Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

    • Gabon’s forests are of vital importance for thousands of species but local timber companies have exploited these forests, building their business models on bribery and other crimes. For approximately 120 years, Gabon has exported wood in the form of unprocessed logs, developing many economies off the African continent. Select businesses have continuously broken the most fundamental forest laws, turning timber trade regulations upside-down, and diverting millions in unpaid taxes from the governments of Gabon. One company in particular,  Dejia Group, has been caught bribing ministers in both the Republic of Congo and Gabon to get access to timber concessions and avoid punishment for their crimes. National law enforcement have traced illegally-sourced timber from Dejia to European and US markets, despite the many laws prohibiting the import of illegal timber.
    • Lee White, Gabon’s new environment minister, is launching a campaign to tackle illegal logging by strengthening the governance of forests. The decision was the result of a national scandal in which 350 containers of rare kevazingo wood went missing.Illegal logging, political apathy and climate change are key reasons why White is hoping to extend more protective measures for the country’s forests. Working alongside President Ali Bongo, White will propose bans on raw wood exports, enlarging protected areas and demarcating 13 new national parks. New penal codes have also been passed, along with innovative training for law enforcement personnel and stronger partnerships with the Defence ministry By 2022: Gabon will require all logging companies to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the international certification scheme for ethical wood products.

    References and Further Reading


    Director General for Environment and Nature Protection, Mr. Stanislas Stephen Mouba: