The problem with illegal logging
Illegal logging undermines responsible forest management, encourages corruption and reduces the producer country’s income. It undermines the rights of communities who own and use forests, and can have a devastating effect on biodiversity and cause vast carbon emissions.
Despite this, illegal timber and wood-based products are routinely and often unwittingly bought by consumers and companies. This undermines efforts to deal with the problem.
Illegal logging is also often an integral part of the economy, providing support for political parties and local communities. The challenge is therefore to tackle the root causes of illegality, which include corruption, lack of clarity about land rights and the excessive influence of the timber industry over forestry policies and legislation.
The FLEGT Action Plan and Voluntary Partnership Agreements
The EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade ( FLEGT ) Action Plan represents the European Union’s flagship attempt to tackle the root causes of illegal logging. It sets out a series of measures, including a Regulation (the EU Timber Regulation) requiring European companies to verify the legality any timber products they import to the EU.
A key element of the FLEGT Action Plan is a series of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs). These agreements between wood producing countries and the EU aim to ensure that wood being exported to the EU is legal and that forest governance in the exporting country is improved. VPAs work by tackling the root causes of illegality, which include corruption and lack of clarity about land rights.
FLEGT VPAs will not solve the problems of illegal logging overnight. But they are currently the most promising international tool for tackling the root causes, and promoting lasting positive change in the forests.
Michael McGarrell, Amerindian Peoples’ Association Guyana
« The VPA creates a space where our rights and our concerns can be brought to the government, and they can take it on board. »
VPAs are based on the national laws of each producing country, and to date all VPAs are endorsed by the government, civil society and companies. The law that needs to be enforced is agreed after an in-depth assessment of its relevance, and reforms to address weaknesses are made when they are deemed necessary. They ensure that wood can be traced from tree to the point of export. The result is that people in forest rich (but often poor) countries won’t have their precious resources stolen, and consumers can be more sure that they are not harming people and forests with their purchases.
Legal forest use, when based on laws that are environmentally sound and socially just, can ensure environmental protection whilst providing livelihoods to some of the world’s poorest peoples. The EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, and especially the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) between wood producing countries and the EU, aim to ensure that wood being sold in the EU can be shown to be legal.