Community spirit

Widespread engagement is vital for the credibility of FLEGT licensing, says Indonesian EIA consultant Mardi Minangsari

Indonesia's forestry and timber sector legality reform has come from the ground up. Community and small business groups, NGOs and local authorities were involved from the outset in developing the country’s SVLK legality assurance system, its EU FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and FLEGT licensing. And they weren't invited in by government to win approval for the process. Rather they drove it and initiated the whole multi-stakeholder approach, according to Mardi Minangsari, Environmental Investigation Agency consultant and member of JPIK, the Indonesian Forestry Monitoring Network.

“Government didn’t encourage us to get involved, but with engagement it has become more receptive and now listens to stakeholder concerns and appreciates their input.” Ms Mardi herself was involved in Indonesia’s forest legality reform through the 2000s. As part of NGO Telapak’s forestry team, she worked on development of the Indonesian Timber Legality Standard and Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS), now better known by its Indonesian acronym, SVLK, and enshrined in law.

“Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were represented on the SVLK steering committee and standard drafting team,” she said. Already firmly established in domestic efforts to assure timber legality, she added, the multi-stakeholder approach readily transferred to Indonesia’s VPA with the EU. “All parties were consulted on whether Indonesia was ready for a VPA and our negotiation delegation was also multi-stakeholder.”

Another group which needed winning over to CSO involvement was big forestry business. “But most are now used to us being in the room,” said Ms Mardi. “I guess our interaction allowed us to trust each stakeholder’s commitment to the common goal – a robust, credible timber legality system.”

CSO engagement became more deeprooted still with the 2010 launch of JPIK, which now represents 51 organisation and 407 individual members, with a mandate to monitor the SVLK. Like other CSO participants, JPIK saw the FLEGT VPA process as an opportunity to further develop the SVLK , which is also now embedded in Indonesia’s VPA, and its associated V-Legal export licensing, now set to become FLEGT licensing for EU trade.

"We also secured inclusion of civil society monitoring and greater transparency, forcing government to release data," said Ms Mardi. Now Indonesian FLEGT-licensing is here, she sees civil society’s role as even more vital. “Developing a robust system is one thing,” she said. “The test is ensuring credible implementation and continuous improvement through independent CSO monitoring.”

JPIK and other Indonesian civil society bodies’ assure export customers they will undertake this, but they also see the EU trade playing a key role in underpinning Indonesia’s legality assurance achievement. “We need their commitment to source only FLEGT-licensed timber from Indonesia and promote it internationally,” said Ms Mardi.

JPIK, meanwhile, now supports civil society engagement in other FLEGT VPA countries. “It ensures VPAs don’t just tackle trade, but governance, transparency, participation and accountability,” said Ms Mardi. “We’re happy to share our experience and already engage with groups in Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Ghana.”