Cameroon signed a VPA with the EU in 2010, although work towards implementing the agreement has been beset with obstacles including a retraction of space for meaningful civil society participation in governance and legal reforms. The VPA entered into force on 1 December 2011.
Cameroon has around 20 million hectares of forest, which is almost half of its national territory. Most of this forest area has been permanently allocated to long-term forest production or conservation, with a smaller area intended for community forestry. The forest sector contributes around 6% of GDP. Cameroon is Africa’s largest exporter of tropical hardwood to the EU, most of which is sown timber that goes to Italy and Spain.
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A joint EU-Cameroon stock-taking and planning exercise has been the main focus of the VPA process for the past six months. This initiative (announced May 2018, began February 2019) aims to assess the agreement and its implementation, re-dynamise the VPA process, and guide the next phase.
Until now VPA negotiations centred around the development of a traceability and legality assurance system, leading to frictions between actors, especially concerning the traceability system’s efficiency. There has not been substantial progress in recent years, despite various evaluations intended to identify and address deficiencies. Civil society therefore welcomes the stock-take, but warns that it should look forward and ensure that political will exists to implement sustainable forest management; and tackle corruption, even at the highest level. This is one of the root causes of illegal logging. Finding concrete, practical avenues to end impunity, and involving a wider range of public administrations in forest management should be the recurrent theme of this exercise.
A team of four consultants has been appointed to lead and guide this participatory exercise, including a well-respected former higher education minister who has also been nominated as a national mediator.
In the first phase of stock-take, key stakeholders, including civil society, were consulted. Three field missions were undertaken, allowing the consultants to exchange directly with community representatives. The results were discussed at an April workshop in Mfou (Yaoundé) that brought together about 50 stakeholders. Civil society believes this is an acceptable level of participation, but greater access to information and more time to develop a response would make participation more effective. Civil society nevertheless contributed to the draft of the roadmap, which is expected in July.
There has also been progress on transparency. The official VPA website managed by the Ministry of Forest is a goldmine of information in line with the transparency annexe of the VPA. It is operational again, after months of being ‘down’, and now includes updated information about the validity of titles, among other things. There are still problems though as, for example, information on the volume of timber production and annual joint reports remain inaccessible, despite the fact that EU Competent Authorities need this information to enforce the EU Timber Regulation correctly.
Last updated in July 2019.
A brief history of VPA negotiation and implementation, from a civil society perspective.
In 2013, civil society groups in Cameroon issued an updated assessment of the challenges of implementing a VPA in the country.
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