This detailed study from academics Christine Overdevest and Jonathan Zeitlin examines the impact of the VPA process on illegal logging and forest governance in Ghana and Liberia. The research, published via ACCESS Europe, finds that both countries have achieved measurable declines in illegal logging, and significant improvements in forest governance.
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Article abstract: Over the past decade, the European Union has created a novel experimentalist architecture for transnational forest governance: the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative. This architecture comprises extensive participation by civil society stakeholders in the establishment and revision of open-ended framework goals (bilateral Voluntary Partnership Agreements or VPAs with developing countries aimed at promoting sustainable forest governance and preventing illegal logging) and metrics for assessing progress towards them (legality standards and indicators) through ongoing monitoring and review of local implementation by countries and firms, underpinned by a penalty default mechanism to sanction non-cooperation (the EU Timber Regulation that prohibits operators from placing illegally harvested wood on the European market). This paper analyzes the implementation of VPAs in Indonesia and Ghana, the two countries that are closest to being able to issue FLEGT export licences. A central theme of the analysis is the reciprocal relationship between the experimentalist architecture of the FLEGT initiative and transnational civil society activism, whereby the VPAs’ insistence on stakeholder participation, independent monitoring, and implementation review, underwritten by the EU, empower domestic NGOs with vital local knowledge to expose problems on the ground, hold public authorities accountable for addressing them, and contribute to developing joint solutions.