Indonesia has been stepping up action against illegal logging and other forest crimes, with an increase in law enforcement operations and hundreds of court cases in the past three years. However, improving monitoring and law enforcement remains a challenging task.
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.
Two reports contribute to an undertaking by the European Union (EU) and the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic (PDR) to initiate joint assessments to provide a baseline for, and inform progress of, their process to negotiate a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on forest law enforcement, governance and trade (FLEGT).
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.
Global Witness says Vietnam’s recently-signed Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the European Union can and must prevent the country from ‘becoming a new global timber laundering hub.’ Instead, the Agreement can ensure that Vietnam plays ‘a crucial role’ in protecting the world’s threatened rainforests.
In March 2017, South Korea revised the Act on the Sustainable Use of Timbers, a milestone in its efforts to promote legal timber trade. The EU FLEGT Facility has published a brief that describes similarities and differences between the revised Act and the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR).