On a cool grey day in Belgium last month, a group of visitors from Guyana gathered at Antwerp port and imagined a future in which their country’s timber products flow freely into the EU, bypassing red tape because every item has been verified to be legal.
It’s hard to follow the law when the law doesn’t follow itself, and this has long been a challenge for the timber sector in Guyana. Inconsistencies in the legal framework there have made it difficult for businesses involved in harvesting and processing wood from Guyana’s forests to follow the law. It has also made it difficult for authorities to enforce it. But that all changed this year, when Guyana enacted much-needed reforms.
The EU and Guyana have concluded negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). The agreement will help improve forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products.
This month, Indonesia and the EU marked the second anniversary of a major milestone in their partnership against illegal logging — the launch of the world’s first ‘FLEGT’ licensing scheme, guaranteeing the legality of timber products exported to the EU.
Looking back into a past of chaos, corruption and crime, Indonesia has clearly come a long way in reforming its timber sector. During the 1990s and early 2000s, illegal logging was so widespread that more than 70-80 per cent of timber produced in Indonesia was sourced illegally.
A study commissioned by the Global Timber Forum reveals that women workers in Ghana’s wood processing sector are much less visible than their male counterparts yet are involved in multiple areas of the value chain. This involvement ranges from the administration, labour and through to acting as financiers of business.
Our new investigation conclusively shows that tropical timber across the Solomon Islands is being harvested on an unsustainable scale, and that much of the activity driving this environmental destruction is at high risk of being illegal. If the growing degradation of the Solomon Islands’ tropical forests carries on unchecked, it will have a disastrous and irreparable impact on the country’s environment. The loss of this carbon sink would also have a significant impact on climate change.
The EU and Vietnam signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). The agreement will help improve forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products from Vietnam to the EU, and other markets.
How can trade policies promote and support governance reforms in developing countries so that forest resources contribute to sustainable development? A panel discussion on the FLEGT initiative hoped to provide an answer to this question. The session, moderated by Jussi Viitanen, Head of the EU FLEGT and REDD Facilities at the European Forest Institute, took place at the recent WTO Public Forum in Geneva.