Independent forest monitoring evolves, aided by VPAs
FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements are aiding an evolution in the implementation and impacts of independent forest monitoring in West and Central Africa, according to a new brief by the consultancy Palladium International. The report is based on inputs from 19 civil society organisations and individuals, and it covers eight countries in West and Central Africa.
The report notes a shift from independent monitors looking at blatant illegalities, such as logging outside allocated timber yields or felling boundaries, towards looking at compliance with operating rules or fraud in permit allocation, for example.
Independent forest monitoring is also shifting to towards greater emphasis on the social obligations of concessionaires, and is adapting to REDD+ and expanding to monitor new drivers of deforestation.
The report give examples of ways independent forest monitoring has had practical impacts on the management of forests and associated trade, law enforcement, or social obligations. These impacts include revision of law enforcement procedures in Cameroon, better recognition and documentation by the authorities of suspected infractions in Côte d’Ivoire, and improved tax collection and redistribution in Liberia.
Monitoring had also led to regulatory impacts – from revisions to legislation in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo, to a review of the social agreement process and templates in Liberia.
The review concludes that VPAs have helped to broaden the scope of independent forest monitoring and how it sheds light on the forest sector, in particular “by strengthening the ability of forest communities to ask for and receive information relevant to them”.
The report notes that monitors in all countries have adopted VPA legality grids as tools against which to measure compliance. It says this approach provides extra weight to monitoring efforts by raising the possibility of trade restrictions into the EU market, and by the focusing the attention of national stakeholders.
It adds: “There are early signs that, compared to the past, VPAs and the institutions established to support them, do provide new, more responsible and responsive audiences who would act on governance failures documented through independent forest monitoring.”
Finally, the report says FLEGT has significantly increased funding available for independent forest monitoring, and that this has helped local organisations and communities take over from international NGOs.