Paper analyses VPA implementation in Indonesia and Ghana

A new paper in the journal Regulation & Governance analyses the implementation of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) in Indonesia and Ghana under the European Union (EU) Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan.

by MFP3

The authors focused on these countries as they have made most progress to date out of the 15 countries negotiating or implementing VPAs with the EU.

The paper builds on previous work that argued that the FLEGT initiative constitutes “the core of an emergent experimentalist governance architecture”, which builds on extensive participation by civil society stakeholders to establish and revise VPAs to promote sustainable forest governance and prevent illegal logging. 

This “experimentalist regime” has been identified as a promising approach to addressing contentious, uncertain transnational issues such as forest governance. Nonetheless, the paper notes that VPA implementation has proved challenging.

After providing an overview of FLEGT’s experimentalist governance architecture, the paper compares VPA negotiations in Indonesia and Ghana. It underlines both the similarities of their participatory, multistakeholder character, and the differences in the designs of the national timber legality assurance systems that emerged from the negotiations. 

The authors then examine the main technical, administrative and political roadblocks that emerged during VPA implementation in the two countries, stressing the complex, deep-rooted nature of the problems that the VPAs seek to address. 

The paper considers to what extent these obstacles have been overcome. It highlights the role of joint implementation committees of EU and domestic representatives in providing opportunities for public accountability, recursive learning and collaborative problem-solving. 

The authors underline that, in both countries, the architecture of the VPAs has provided a “powerful set of institutional resources” to expose and address obstacles to timber legality assurance and forest governance reform. 

The paper concludes by summarising the main findings and their implications for transnational experimentalist regimes. 

A key finding is that through their insistence on stakeholder participation, and the penalty default effect of the EU Timber Regulation, VPAs empower domestic civil society groups with local knowledge to expose problems, hold public authorities accountable and contribute to developing joint solutions.


Overdevest, C. & Zeitlin, J. 2017. Experimentalism in transnational forest governance: Implementing European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreements in Indonesia and Ghana. Regulation & Governance. doi: 10.1111/rego.12180