EU and Indonesia mark 2nd anniversary of FLEGT licensing

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.

Perhutani officer inspects wooden logs at TPK Pasar Sore wooden shelter, Indonesia. by Robertus Pudyanto, EU FLEGT Facility

Since Indonesia began issuing FLEGT licences, on 15 November 2016, it has exported only verified legal timber and timber products. This includes nearly 2 billion euros of verified legal timber shipped to the EU, and products worth ten times as much that were exported from Indonesia to other markets.

The FLEGT licensing system applies to a broad range of products. It is implemented by 20 independent licensing authorities who help and monitor more than 1,100 exporters to ship timber products to more than 700 EU ports. It is the latest stage in a mandatory nationwide system through which Indonesia ensures that timber is legal throughout the supply chain. Under this system, Indonesia has certified the legality of 23 million hectares of forest and 3,800 forest-based enterprises and industries.

According to ITTO statistics, EU’s imports of tropical wood products from Indonesia increased 7% in the first six months of 2018, increasing Indonesia’s share of EU imports from 15.7% to 16.6%. ITTO also suggests that Indonesia is benefiting more than its competitors from stricter enforcement of the EU Timber Regulation.

The licensing scheme is a result of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) that the EU and Indonesia ratified in 2014. The EU and Indonesia jointly oversee the VPA’s implementation and work to continually improve its systems and procedures. Other producers and importers draw inspiration from this success story to improve sustainable production and responsible trade to non-EU markets.

To date, Indonesia has issued more than 78,000 FLEGT licences. It has taken steps to address issues encountered with licences in a small minority of cases, and is now exploring electronic licensing as a potential alternative to the current paper-based system.

As well as boosting trade in legal timber products, the VPA also supports improved forest governance and law enforcement. It recognises a role for independent forest monitors from civil society and has created mechanisms for them to report concerns about suspected illegal logging and trade. One of such mechanisms is an online portal on Indonesia’s timber legality information system (SILK) which will be used to report and monitor the management of reported cases of non-compliance.

The VPA has also increased transparency in the forest sector, leading the government of Indonesia to publish information about the sector, including on cases of non-compliance. And according to the State of Indonesia’s Forests 2018 report, law enforcement operations against illegal logging have increased in number — from 25 in 2015 to 88 in 2017.

Building on these gains, the Indonesian network of independent forest monitors —JPIK — wants to see more transparency and a stronger enforcement action against those found to be breaking the law.

The Indonesian government, meanwhile, says its partnership with the EU has improved forest governance, laying the foundations for sustainable forest management.