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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Guinea-Bissau

The Constitution of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau does not contain provisions for the protection of its Agricultural and Rural Development; Livestock and Fisheries. However, Article 15 reads:

“Public health’s main goal is to promote the physical and mental well-being of the population and the balanced insertion in the social-ecological environment where they live. It must orient itself towards prevention, and must aim for the progressive socialization of medicine and medical-pharmaceutical sectors”.

Guinea-Bissau’s legal framework is derived from the environmental and social impact assessment process of projects, plans, programs and policies. These initiatives draw upon the nation’s Environmental Law and Environmental Assessment Law, but also its sectoral legislation.

Featured Legislation

1992: The Water Code (Decree-law nº 5-A) was established to introduce a framework for water resources management, stipulating the requirement of an environmental impact study on waters when a project may affect water quality.

1998: The Law of the Land was enacted, creating the guidelines for access to land in Guinea-Bissau. The legislation states that the land belongs to the State, Concessions must be granted to people and private companies trying to access State land.

2008: The National Framework on Biotechnology and Biosafety of Guinea-Bissau was unveiled. This document aims to clearly define the guidelines for: A national policy on biotechnology and biosafety; A legislative and regulatory framework on biotechnology and biosafety; An administrative system for risk assessment and processing of decision making; Monitoring and supervision mechanisms; Awareness and public participation mechanisms. This National Framework on Biotechnology and Biosafety, consisting of ten Chapters and seven Annexes, is based on the requirements of the precautionary approach defined in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, constituting the foundation of the Cartagena Protocol. Its overall objectives are: to contribute to a safe application of biotechnology, environmental protection, human, plant and animal health, including cross-border movements (3.2.1). The specific objectives are: a) Developing national legal framework; b) Creating mechanisms for its implementation; Developing and implementing an effective legal and institutional framework, (allowing the country to take the necessary steps to comply with the Cartagena Protocol, in particular, regulating the scientific research in the field of modern biotechnology, development, production, spreading in the environment, import, export, transit, marketing and use of GMOs and their products; Creating and strengthening the necessary technical and scientific skills for the development and management of biotechnology and biosafety, through training, development of new skills and adequate infrastructures and equipment; Ensuring the coordination of modern biotechnology development programs, development of information mechanism, involving in particular the private sector, harmonization of working protocols; Developing and making operational awareness mechanisms and public participation in decision-making mechanisms and risk prevention.

2010: The Environmental Assessment Law (Law nº 10/2010) was adopted, creating the fundamental principles and methodologies of the national environmental assessment process for projects, plans and programs. The legislation stipulates that all projects require positive environmental certificates before work begins. The legislation also ensures Public Participation procedures, Environmental Audits, and Revenue distribution from taxes and fines.

2011: The Environmental Framework Law was passed (Law nº 1/2011), laying down the fundamental principles of national environmental protection policy.

2011: The Protected Areas Law (Decree-law nº 5-A/2011) was instituted to protect the nation’s  fauna, flora and ecosystems inside protected areas.

2011: (Decree-law nº 5/2011) was signed, governing forestry activities in the country through the issuance of licenses for all projects.

2014: The Law of Mines and Minerals (Law nº 3/2014) was brought into force, overseeing  extraction activities of minerals and mines.

2015: The National Programme of Action for Adaptation to Climate Change of Guinea-Bissau was tabled. The programme found that gradual increases in temperature and reductions in rainfall will significantly reduce agricultural productivity and exacerbate water shortages. It is therefore necessary and urgent that the Guinea-Bissau Government take initiatives such as the development of new, more resistant , crops and changes in agricultural systems in order to increase the resilience of its agriculture to climate change, the protection of coastal ecosystems and adopt measures to reduce long term risks, like the integration of climate change into local development plans, forest management plans and soil occupancy and, generally speaking, in development policies and strategies.

2017: Decree nº 5/2017 was promulgated, outlining the different procedures of Public Participation under the process of Environmental (and Social) Assessment law.

2017: ​​Decree nº 6/2017 was introduced to promote the protection of national natural resources and the environment. The legislation is also dedicated to promoting activities of sustainable natural resource management, environmental education, and the restoration of degraded habitats.

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

  • A 5-year moratorium on the exportation of timber was lifted in 2020: causing an uptick in illegal logging in the forests of Guinea-Bissau. Some of the key drivers of illicit logging activities, according to the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, include corruption, regulatory capture and powerful companies operating in China. The moratorium has been controversial since its inception, as advocates of lifting of the ban have argued that the logging sector would be better regulated if government decrees outlined the guidelines for legal logging operations. What is happening in Guinea-Bissau is a prime example of the imperfect implementation of environmental laws – illegal logging continues apace despite the existence of the moratorium and certain species of timber (rosewood, for example) have been pushed to the brink of extinction. In 2020 and 2021: the Civil Society Observatory of Illicit Economies in Guinea-Bissau hosted community workshops to discuss criminal markets in three regions heavily affected by illicit logging: Bafatá, Gabu and Cacheu. Local communities have explained how the military junta rule between 2012-2014 has expanded the logging sector; the military once relied heavily on cash crops such as cashews but due to the collapse of cashew nut prices in 2013 and the US involvement in curtailing the cocaine trade, the government has come to rely on illegal logging to support those in power. In November 2020: Judicial Police seized a large quantity of timber, prompting the Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas to work with the Inter-Ministerial Technical Commission for Timber Management and civil society to coordinate efforts to protect the forests of Guinea-Bissau.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Energy, Industry and Natural Resources: