Cote d’Ivoire began negotiating a VPA in 2013. A civil society platform was slow to establish but is now working towards having a real influence on forest reforms connected to the process.
Forests cover 22% of the land area of Côte d’Ivoire, but only 2% of the country is covered by primary forest. Most of the country’s forests – once the largest in western Africa – have been heavily logged. The forest cover has shrunk from 12 million hectares in 1960 to 2.5 million hectares today. Forests contribute to the national economy, and an estimated 150 000 cubic metres of timber is exported each year.
The FLEGT-VPA process in Côte d’Ivoire had been on stand-by since 2017, in recognition of the vast legal and political governance reforms needed. During this time of reflexion about whether the FLEGT process should continue, a joint review was carried out; leading to the Ivorian government deciding to continue the process, adapting it to Ivorian circumstances. An EU mission to Côte d’Ivoire in early 2019 led to programme being relaunched. They hope to sign a VPA by 2022.
As part of this relaunch, a draft strategy to implement the new forest policy of conservation, rehabilitation and extension of forests (Politique de préservation, de réhabilitation et d’extension des forets) has been adopted. A national programme intended to advance the application of this policy is being elaborated; stakeholders are currently reviewing and adding their contributions to the draft and have until the end of June to submit comments. The Ministry of Water and Forests (MINEF) will then host a general stakeholder meeting in order to validate the final draft, which will hopefully be published online at the Ministry’s site.
Several connected processes are simultaneously getting underway in the forest sector, each vast in scope. In addition to FLEGT, the application decrees for the timber legality grid are being developed. The process began in 2016 but was suspended in 2018, in anticipation of the new Forest Code, which was deemed necessary in order to account for the destruction caused by the cocoa and rubber industries (forests that were more than 75 per cent destroyed may be reclassified as agro-forest lands to accommodate the reality on the ground). This Code was adopted unanimously on 20 June 2019 and will be sent to plenary in the coming weeks.
The quality of the FLEGT process also benefitted the Ministry of Agriculture’s ongoing land tenure reform. Stakeholders are asking for FLEGT to take into account concerns surrounding tenure security.
Prior to the VPA process, a culture of stakeholder participation did not exist in Côte d’Ivoire. Now there is more agreement that effective processes must include representatives of government, private sector, civil society and the traditional chieftains (chefferie traditionnelle). Across the processes mentioned, the fact that consultations take place at all is a significant step forward, although quality is still variable.
Within VPA negotiations, stakeholder consultations are going smoothly. The National Negotiating Committee has created working groups that represent all stakeholders. Documents are given in time to permit an adequate response, and civil society representatives feel that their observations are considered; whether they are acted on is a matter of debate.
The VPA process pressures other negotiations to be more inclusive, yet in VPA negotiations themselves, civil society is much more reserved. Stakeholder consultation is carried out, but the results are patchy. With regards to the development of the application decrees, for example, documents are not given in time to allow reflection and preparation of an in-depth response. As for taking concerns into account, the impact is still less visible. There is a general feeling that the form of consultation takes precedence over substance. Regarding the new draft Code, for example, civil society raised several concerns and, in May, requested a meeting with MINEF; at the time of writing, they have received no response.
As a result, civil society remains concerned about how much the VPA process will be able to deliver, as this depends heavily on the administration’s commitment. It is one thing to arm oneself with adequate tools to battle deforestation, but using them remains a challenge. Many strong tools exist, a great deal of paper has been generated – about zero-deforestation, about forest-friendly cocoa, about sustainable agriculture – that could bring about meaningful change. All the elements that could truly improve forest management exist or are being developed. But a deeper commitment to changing behaviour is missing – beginning with the administration. Mindsets have not changed yet. For now, data relating to forest destruction is as alarming as ever.
Last updated in July 2019.
Share this page on social media: