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Photo: Aulia Erlangga – CIFOR, Flickr/cc.

FLEGT licensing started on 15 November 2016. Progress is not as smooth as it may appear, however. The Indonesian Independent Forest Monitoring Network (JPIK) provided evidence of timber being logged in protected areas in September 2018 and further evidence of illegality, environmental destruction and community rights violations were presented in Rainforest Action Network’s in-depth investigation a month later.

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest exporters of tropical timber, forests cover around 60 per cent of its land area. It exports plywood, pulp and paper, furniture and handicrafts. The main export destinations are China, the EU, Japan and Korea.

Photo: Nanang Sujana - CIFOR, Flickr/cc.

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As Indonesia gains experience with FLEGT licences, more loopholes come to light. Cases challenging FLEGT licences must be handled seriously, such as the cases of Merbau and Sono Keling in East Java and Makassar, South Sulawesi, currently being processed in Indonesia’s courts. The government should conduct further investigations to clarify whether the wood is intended for the EU market. 

In March 2019, the Indonesian Government and the EU delegation held a Joint Expert Meeting (JEM) to discuss how FLEGT-VPA implementation was progressing. Matters addressed included the 2018 Action Plan’s progress, and the planning of the Periodical Evaluation (PE) of implementation that got underway in late May 2019. 

Profundo, the consulting group chosen to carry out the PE; the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) and the PE team, composed of the government and the European Forest Institute, conducted a public consultation regarding the activities the PE should cover (May 2019). Several parties, including the Indonesian Independent Forest Monitoring Network (JPIK), provided input. JPIK has forwarded its comments regarding both technical and substantive aspects of the evaluation to the PE team.  

Generally, government performance has improved regarding implementation of the Indonesian Timber Legality Assurance System (SVLK), although a number of problems must still be addressed, typically surrounding aspects of transparency and law enforcement. Here political will is lacking; the same issue affects independent monitoring activities, which can only be as effective as the government allows. 

Increased pressure to strengthen Independent Market Monitoring (IMM), using actual trade patterns to assess the impacts of VPAs, as well as stricter application and enforcement of the EUTR provisions would help improve shortcomings with SVLK implementation. As part of this, the EU could develop detailed information systems, including a “tip line” where third-parties could leave information about illegal timber and timber products.  

Problems surrounding enforcement and timber legality should not be Indonesia’s alone: strengthening the SVLK and the EUTR must also entail robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms within the EU and Member States, ensuring that tips from independent-monitoring organisations or other sources about illegal timber entering the EU are followed up.  

Stricter demand-side enforcement and standardisation of Member State Competent Authorities could help address ‘timber-laundering’ through third countries prior to placement on the EU market. Information on EUTR law enforcement across Member States could be consolidated in a way that it can be widely monitored – not just by authorities. Forest monitors need to be reassured that their personal investment in the process is worth the risks they may incur.  

Indonesia and the EU must build a more effective law enforcement framework to combat the illegal timber trade, whether through legal assistance or by attempting to halt state losses due to forestry crimes or the illegal timber trade. The EU shares responsibility for continuous efforts to improve and strengthen good forest governance (and sustainability, as the EU mentioned in the last JEM) within Indonesia’s forestry sector. 

Since the creation of the SVLK: Before the SVLK there was no culture of public involvement in decision-making, whereas now there is clear public participation. This offers an example for other initiatives. Although FLEGT processes have brought some element of change, the public and even independent forest monitors can only provide recommendations for improvements. Whether these recommendations are used, and how, remains entirely in the hands of government. It is still not possible for the public to access some types of information; data is frequently excluded or considered confidential, affecting the quality of CSO participation. This is especially true regarding the provision of data for monitoring purposes.  

Last updated in July 2019.

A brief history of VPA negotiations so far, from a civil society perspective

Indonesia’s civil society independent monitoring network, Jaringan Pemantau Independen Kehutanan (JPIK), has been part of negotiations and has continued to raise alarms if discussions seemed to be going in the wrong direction. As Indonesia moves towards being the first country to export FLEGT licensed timber, the role of civil society, and JPIK in particular, is crucial. For licenced timber is to be credible, the independent civil society forest monitors must endorse the process.

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