FLEGT in Ecuador
Ecuador has shown interest in a FLEGT VPA since 2006, but no formal steps have been set. The country has been involved in the ALFA process since 2006. ALFA (which stands for Forest Law Enforcement in the Amazon), is being developed in the Amazon context and lead by the ACTO (Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation). A FLEGT process with the country could benefit from exploring synergies with the ALFA process. ALFA does not focus on trade to the same extent as FLEGT, but it claims to have law enforcement and participation at its heart, both of which are essential components of FLEGT.
The process so far
The initial interest by Ecuador on a VPA process dates from 2005. In November that year, the 65 Ecuadorian NGOs members of the Ecuadorian NGO network CEDENMA (Ecuadorian Committee for Nature and Environment Defence) and the CIFOP (Society of Forest Engineers of Pichincha) asked the Ecuadorian Minister of Environment to approach the EU to start the process leading to the negotiation of a VPA. The Ecuadorian Minister of Environment expressed its interest by sending a letter to the European Union on 3 January 2006, asking the EU to consider Ecuador as part of the FLEGT process.
This letter was followed by a positive answer from the European Commission, and the government of Spain took the lead in defining strategic points of cooperation that could be part of this initiative. Following the changes in government, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment and the European Commission have exchanged letters in late spring 2007 reaffirming their mutual interest in the process.
In June 2008 a first informal meeting on ALFA and FLEGT was hosted by the Ecuadorean Ministry of the Environment. This was followed by a second meeting in August 2008. Participants in these included representatives from the Ministry and other official institutions, the donor community and international NGOs. These meetings have provided a first opportunity to introduce and discuss FLEGT and its potential in Ecuador.
A few points worth noting include:
- Ecuador has wide experience on forest verification systems, as it has explored and piloted mechanisms such as outsourced control systems, a decentralised forest control mechanism and, more recently, is exploring IT-based mechanisms for forest control.
- The Government of Ecuador is currently working on improving control, law enforcement and incentives for sustainable forest management. It has recently launched the Socio Bosque programme. FLEGT could complement and support these efforts.
- Over half of Ecuador’s forests are owned by indigenous communities. Improving forest governance and empowering communities to manage their forests in socially just and environmentally sound ways could be an effective way of fighting poverty.
On behalf of the EU, the European Forest Institute (EFI) EU FLEGT Facility, which supports the implementation of the EU FLEGT Action Plan, had exchanges with the country in 2009 and is expected to continue.