Genuine forest reform can only happen under the gaze of independent eyes
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.
But in 2016, under a Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union, Indonesia became the first country in the world to obtain a FLEGT licence for its timber and wood products exported to the EU – a legally binding trade agreement aiming to tackle illegal logging, improve forest governance and promote trade in legal timber.
In 1999, we and our then-partner Telapak published a report revealing illegal logging operations in two world-renowned national parks, Tanjung Puting and Gunung Leuser. It was the first report to alert the world to the horrendous scale of illegal logging and the corrupt politician behind it. The Indonesian Government responded and designated illegal logging as one of its priority issues and this led to a number of actions which include enforcing log export ban, listing the precious timber ramin in Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), timber industry revitalisation and several bilateral co-operations.
The 2002 UK-Indonesia Memorandum of Understanding to tackle illegal logging and improve forest governance paved the way for the reform process in the timber sector.
But reform isn’t just a matter of new laws, trade agreements and improved enforcement – absolutely vital to the success and credibility of any reform in this sector is the active, impartial and transparent involvement of civil society.