A sound consultation process is key to ensuring a good VPA process. By enabling civil society to discuss key issues, building links between the government and civil society and building the capacity of non-government actors to be involved, the consultation process is an important goal in itself. But what constitutes effective stakeholder participation?
In 2002, the EU adopted a Communication which establishes the framework for consultation processes held by the European Commission. The general principles and minimum standards set up in the communication have applied since 1 January 2003.
The minimum standards for consultation require, in particular, that:
· the content of the consultation is clear;
· relevant parties have an opportunity to express their opinions;
· the consultations are widely published and received by all target audiences;
· participants are given sufficient time for responses (8 weeks for open public consultations); and
· acknowledgement and adequate feedback is provided.
NGOs have called on the Commission to ensure that its consultation principles and standards apply to all VPA negotiations between the EU and Partner Countries. As of August 2010, all consultations (with the exception of Malaysia) have been positive.
The Commission’s FLEGT Briefing note No6 (2007 Series) states that the designing and implementation of the VPA must ensure stakeholder involvement: “Provision should be made for regular consultation with stakeholders during the design and implementation of VPAs.” The Commission Directorate General Development’s VPA website also specifically mentions (as on January 2010) stakeholder engagement as one among three key lessons learnt from VPAs negotiations: “Time-bound, output-oriented stakeholder engagement helps foster understanding between stakeholders and make major, practical changes to VPAs.”
Civil society organisations in almost all VPA countries have stated that the FLEGT process has strengthened national level consultation processes. In various VPA countries, such as Cameroon, Ghana, Congo, civil society actors are for the first time being consulted by their governments in the development (and implementation) of national level forest policy processes.
For more information on consultation processes read Consultation requirements under FLEGT. Loggingoff Briefing note 1, March 2008
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