Africa wood and forestry network revisits and strengthens strategies leading to BWI World Congress

BWI’s Africa and Middle East Region hosted a Wood and Forestry Network online meeting on 22 June and revisited and strengthened its strategies and actions to revitalise trade union work in the region’s wood, forestry and related industries.  

The meeting, which was part of the lead up to BWI’s 5th World Congress in Madrid, Spain this October, was facilitated by BWI Regional Representative Crecentia Mofokeng who drew attention to the challenges in the region’s wood and forestry industry such as poor compliance with labour standards, illegal logging and environmental degradation, rising poverty, loss of biodiversity and climate change.

A discussion on FSC certification processes that could promote decent work in the wood and forestry sector followed shortly after. This was led by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Labour Issues Manager Paul Opanga. 

Opanga shared insights on how trade unions can best engage FSC offices at the national, regional and international levels on certification evaluation and assessment issues, and effectively get the attention of the certification board using existing channels like the stakeholder consultation process.

Explaining forest certification as a policy and an organising tool, Timber and Woodworkers Union of Ghana General Secretary Mark Ofori Asante discussed the importance of trade union participation in forest certification. “We need to secure workers’ rights within the controlled wood standard framework and strengthen workers’ capacity to elect their occupational health and safety representatives and tighten their relationship with trade unions at workplaces,” said Ofori, who is also an FSC Board Member. 

Sharing BWI’s strategies in the wood and forestry for the next Congress period, BWI Global Wood and Forestry Director Coen Van der Veer explained to African wood and forestry affiliates the importance of campaigning for climate justice, inclusive trade unions, occupational health and safety, globalised rights and an equal future. He said that these are part of BWI’s proposed five convergences. 

The online meeting was attended by 27 participants from 10 countries, including 7 women attendees. Participants were given time to share their most recent experiences on trade union organising and social dialogue amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.