What are FLEGT VPAs?They are VoluntaryPartnership Agreements.They are legally bindingbilateral tradeagreements which set outthe commitments andaction that the EU andtimber exportingcountries will take totackle illegal logging.LoggingOff is a joint initiative by NGOs from European and timber-producing countriesinvolved in or monitoring the implementation of the EU FLEGT Action Plan, and specificallythe implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreements
Basics• The VPA process is undertaken by two parties: the EU on behalfof all its Member States and the country government of thetimber exporting (and producing) country.• VPAs set out the commitments and action of both parties totackle illegal logging, including measures to increaseparticipation of rightsholders and non-state stakeholders;recognise communities’ rights to the land; and addresscorruption• VPAs are required to have the buy-in of nationalstakeholders, including NGOs, local communities, indigenouspeoples, and the timber industry
Context• Other elements of this planinclude :(1) Government ProcurementPolicies(2) Financial due diligence(3) Illegal timber regulationFor more information on FLEGT, see:What is FLEGTVPAs are the central plank of the EU’s Action Plan toaddress the illegal timber trade: the Forest LawEnforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan.
ObjectivesThe EU Council Conclusions on FLEGT (2003/C 268/01) note that the VPAsmust, among others, “instigate forest sector governance reforms, morespecifically they should:• strengthen land tenure and access rights especially formarginalised, rural communities and indigenous peoples;• strengthen effective participation of all stakeholders, notably of non-state actors and indigenous peoples, in policy-making andimplementation;• increase transparency in association with forest exploitationoperations, including through the introduction of independentmonitoring;• reduce corruption in association with the award of forestexploitations concessions, and the harvesting and trade in timber”.
To achieve these objectives...• all social, environmental and economic issueslinked to forest use must be discussed, andfailures addressed• weaknesses and injustices in the laws must beidentified, and changes proposed through aprocess that involves all stakeholders• legal requirements must apply to all timberproducts and all exports, not just timber destinedfor the EU market• transparency and accountability must beimproved through monitoring, reporting andpublic access to information
VPA ElementsA VPA includes three main elements:a) Defining legality, or deciding which laws will be enforced forthe purpose of the agreementb) Developing a Legality Assurance System (LAS) (includingtimber tracking, government legality controls, and systemsto verify the legality of the timber)c) Independent audits of the whole system, to ensurecredibility of the export licenses.
• The legality definition outlines the set of laws that will beenforced and monitored in the context of the FLEGT agreement• ‘Legality’ is based on the laws andprocedures of the timberproducing country in question,and must include laws addressingsocial, environmental andeconomic issues• The definition must be developed through extensiveparticipation of all stakeholders and rightsholdersDefining legality
The LAS is the main tool for guaranteeing legality. It consists of:• The "legality grid": A matrix which outlines the laws, verifiersand indicators used to monitor enforcement of laws• Chain of custody: The wood tracing system which ensures onlytimber verified as legal will be exported or sold. Verified andunverified timber should be kept separate• Verification of legal compliance: The way the government orthird party verifies no illegally sourced timber enters the chainof custody.• Licensing: A FLEGT licence is issued to timber verified aslegal, and this allows it to be shipped to the EULegality assurance system
Independent audit• is a compulsoryelement of a VPA• all agreed VPAsinclude annexesdefining the ToR forthe audits• its role is to checkthe system worksIndependent Monitoring/Observation• is not an integral part of the VPA• in Cameroon and the Rep of Congo, theneed for an independent monitor/observer is part of the VPA agreement• This monitor/observer checksmalfunctions in forest law enforcementand provides information to theindependent auditor. The role is oftenplayed by NGOsAn independent auditor is hired to ensure the system is working. Theirterms of reference (ToR) are defined in an annex to the VPA.Independent audits can also be complemented by independentmonitoring/observation, providing information on governance failures.Independent audits
What does a VPA look like?A VPA is composed of a set of articles outlining thebasic principles of the agreement, the ‘maintext’, and a set of annexes.The number of annexes can vary betweendifferent VPAs, but together they should coverissues such as which laws will be monitored forthe purpose of the agreement , and how technicalsystems of verification and traceability will work
The contents of a typical VPAMain text Around 30 Articles establishing the agreement principles and structuresAnnex 1 Product scope (which timber products are covered by the agreement)Annex 2 Legality definition (the set of laws whose enforcement will be monitored priorto awarding a FLEGT license)Annex 3 Description of the Legal Assurance System (LAS)Annex 4 Conditions for the import of timber products into the EU from the FLEGT partnercountryAnnex 5 FLEGT License (demand, delivery, validity and other conditions)Annex 6 Terms of reference for the Independent Auditor of the systemAnnex 7 LAS Assessment Criteria (criteria to determine the functioning of the system)Annex 8 Implementation ScheduleAnnex 9 Accompanying Measures (list of measures needed to ensure a goodimplementation of the agreement)Annex 10 Information (list of documents that will be placed on the public domain)Annex 11 Functions of the EU-FLEGT country Joint Implementation Committee
How is a VPA agreed?• Pre-negotiation starts when a timber producing country showsinterest in starting a VPA. During this time, both parties explore theinterests and constraints of engaging in such a process• VPA negotiations follow. During negotiations both parties aim toreach an agreement on the key elements of the VPA, including thelegality assurance system (LAS) and any other measures that willhave to be in place for the implementation• Initialling of the VPA signifies the end of negotiations and oftenincludes a ceremony between the EU and timber exporter• This is followed by the ratification process
When is a VPA legally binding?• A VPA only enters into force once both parties have ratified.• The process of ratification has so far taken from several months toover a year, but during that time, parties can start developing theagreed LAS• FLEGT licences will not be given until the VPA has been ratified andthe elements of the LAS put in place. From that momentonwards, only FLEGT timber can be exported from the partnercountry to the EU marketFor more information on the negotiation and ratification process, seewww.fern.org/ratificationBoth parties enter into VPA negotiations voluntarily, but a signed VPAcommits both parties to only trade legal timber.
FLEGT partner countriesFLEGT licenses (do not exist yet)Implementation of the systemFormal negotiationsTowards negotiationsPreparation, developing consentIntroduction on VPAs
Challenges of VPA negotiations• Proper stakeholder involvementInvolving everyone with a right/stake on forest use is essential todefine challenges and support for the resulting VPA as well as toensure its legitimacy. Identifying interests and ways of getting theright people to input in the negotiation is complex, and slows downthe process.• Enough timeThere is a very thin line between maintaining interest and allowingtime for effective participation.• The will to reach a consensusAll sides must be willing to make concessions and reach a consensus.
VPAs are a big investment,but they…• Strengthen cooperation: Government, civil society and the privatesector see the advantage of working together• Increase capacity: Providing space for rights/stakeholders toparticipate in political processes improves civil society’s capacity tobe involved in the decisions that affect them• Help improve governance: VPAs create the framework for rights/stakeholders to discuss complex issues, get to the bottom of forestgovernance problems and come up with solutions• Define joint producer - consumer action: VPAs combine trade anddevelopment perspectives. They aim to address problems first andprovide funding second
VPA implementation:policy into practice• How do we continue to ensure participation during thedevelopment and monitoring of the systems?• How do we maintain the momentumThere could easily be a drop in energy after intensivenegotiations.• Keeping focused on governance reformFunding will come alongside implementation, it may bedifficult to ensure that actions focus on governance reformand not just establishing traceability systems
If you would like furtherinformation about the FLEGTaction plan and how it is beingimplemented, please contactRudi Kohnert or Saskia Ozingat +32 (0)496 205500e email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.orgYou will also find moreinformation about FLEGT VPAsand other related issues atwww.loggingoff.infoLOGGINGOFF is a joint initiative by NGOs from European and timber-producingcountries involved in or monitoring the implementation of the EU FLEGT ActionPlan, and specifically the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreements.LOGGINGOFFOnlineresource forinformationon VPAs