Illegal environmental flows - Conference

28 Jun 2013

On June 21st 2013, GaPS organized a conference in the Flemish Parliament, entitled: Governance of illegal environmental flows: e-waste and tropical timber. Dr. Lieselot Bisschop, research at University College Ghent (GaPS) presented the findings of her finished PhD research. This PhD study focused on transnational environmental crime. She studies the illegal trade in e-waste and tropical timber and the trade between Europe and West/Central Africa in particular. The conference aimed to bring diverse perspective around the table and translate the scientific findings in a public debate in order to support policy development and implementation.

After the introduction by chair dr. Gudrun Vande Walle, the first workshop started, focusing on the illegal trade in e-waste. Dr. Lieselot Bisschop asked the question whether it is all going to waste and answered the question by addressing both the social organization and the governance of this illegal trade. Next, Mr. Bart Palmans of the Flemish Directorate for Environment, Nature and Energy responded by explaining the challenges and bottlenecks in the daily practice of their environmental inspectorate and in the challenges in cooperation with other governing actors. After this view from a government perspective, the floor was given to Mr. Patrick Van Den Bossche, director of Agoria, to examine the corporate perspective on the topic. He illustrated the issue of the loss of secondary natural resources and the recycling potential of the European industry. He named illegal transports of e-waste and sham recycling as was one of the major challenges. In answer to these challenges he proposed a role model for ports and a certification system for recyclers. Consequently, the audience was enlightened about the activities of Worldloop, partner organization of Close the Gap, which is a societal actor trying to impact the illegal transport and dumping of e-waste through re-use, transport (to developing countries) and recycling of electronics. Finally, dr. Gudrun Vande Walle approached the topic from a victim perspective, asking the question whether and how the harm could be restored, by means of restorative justice or through international law. In the debate, both Dutch and Belgian members of the audience posted critical questions and comments. Prof. dr. Marleen Easton was the moderator.

In the second workshop the focus was on the illegal trade in tropical timber. Dr. Lieselot Bisschop suggested to go with the flows to learn more about the social organization and governance of illegal environmental flows. Mr. Denis Pohl and Mr. Frans Arijs explained the role of the Federal Government Service Public Health, Food Chain Security and the Environment in controlling for CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) and the EU Timber Regulation, in place since March 1st 2013. Next, Mr. Armand Stockmans got the floor. As timber importer and Chair of the tropical timber section of the European Timber Trade Federation, he provided insights into the flows of timber and in what due diligence procedures could entail. After that, Sabien Leemans of WWF-Belgium explained the scope of illegal logging, the existing legal initiatives, the main challenges in the timber discussion and the role to be played by governments, corporations and NGOs. Academic dr. Tim Boekhout van Solinge (Universiteit Utrecht) was the final speaker of the panel. He discussed the topic of illegal logging based on his experience in working in South America and South-East Asia and illustrated his story with pictures. Afterwards, there was time for debate with the public, once again moderated by Prof. dr. Marleen Easton.

Member of Flemish Parliament Dirk Peters (Groen) concluded the conference by emphasizing the policy implications of the topic.