What is illegal logging?

Illegal logging is the harvesting, processing, transporting, buying or selling of timber in contravention of national and international laws.  It has a devastating impact on some of the world’s most valuable remaining forests, and on the people who live in them and rely on the resources that forests provide.

Vietnam imports a large volume of timber from countries in the region, including Laos Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and China. Vietnamese timber products are exported to more than 100 countries, including high-end and environmentally conscious areas in Europe, the United States, and Japan. To keep up with increasing processing demands, Vietnam needs to import timber from many countries, including high-risk countries which are using illegal or unidentified timbers.


  • The environmental effects of illegal logging include deforestation, the loss of biodiversity and the emission of greenhouse gases. Illegal logging has contributed to conflicts with indigenous and local populations, violence, human rights abuses, corruption, funding of armed conflicts and the worsening of poverty.
  • Illegal logging undermines the legitimacy of the forest sector and hinders the efforts of governments to implement sustainable forest management.

Scale of the problem:

  • It is difficult to assess the extent of illegal logging. The World Bank estimates that governments worldwide lose between US$ 10 billion and 15 billion each year as a result of illegal logging – money that could be spent improving the lives of their people.
  • By buying timber and timber products with ‘no questions asked’, consumer countries in the EU and beyond have unknowingly given financial incentives to those committing forest crimes and have undermined efforts to enforce the law in some of the world’s poorest timber-producing countries.

Addressing the problem:

  • Consumer and producer countries have a shared responsibility to combat illegal logging, by addressing both the supply and demand for illegal timber.
  • The 1998–2002 G8 Action Programme on Forests highlighted illegal logging as one of five issues affecting the world’s forests. Since then, several initiatives to address the problem have been introduced by governments and the private sector.
  • In 2003, the EU published the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. This Action Plan sets out seven measures available to the EU and its member states to tackle illegal logging in the world’s forests.