To promote timber legality, the European Union (EU) has pursued an initiative to establish a voluntary partnership agreement on strengthening forest law enforcement, forest governance, and trade in forest products (VPA-FLEGT) since 2003 – a legally binding trade agreement between the EU and timber exporting countries outside the EU. Leading one of the rich countries in forest resources, in 2010, the Vietnamese government started the process of negotiating this agreement with the EU. After a process of negotiation, in 2018, the agreement was signed and in June 2019, it was ratified and came into effect. It is expected that by 2021, Vietnam will have been exporting FLEGT-licensed timber and timber products to the EU market.
The core content of the VPA is to provide a legal framework with the aim of ensuring that all timber products imported into the EU are legally produced and from the wood of legal origin. Although the VPA FLEGT focuses on a bilateral trade agreement on legal timber, it also has further expectations (Jade, 2014).
According to PROFOR and FAO (2011), forest governance was seen as a foundation for developing appropriate policies and providing better technical solutions to the more sustainable and effective usage of forest products. In Vietnam, forest governance and its principles such as accountability, transparency, equity, efficiency, and participation have been given attention from government agencies and NGOs recently. Ensuring fully comprehensive understandings and practice of these principles among society is the responsibility of not only government agencies but also independent organizations, especially which in the VNGO-FLEGT network, through their participation and supervision. It could be said that one of the fundamental and essential principles of forest governance is the principle of transparency, which has urged all the VPA-FLEGT Agreement partners to reach a consensus on the “Disclosure of Information” Annex. Hoang et al (2017), conducting an overview study on forest governance, also stated that in Vietnam, the current policy and institutional systems show that the level of transparency in forestry is not high.
As a golden opportunity to enhance forest governance, VPA-FLEGT is said to make a significant contribution to the forestry sector in developing forest transparency and governance (Global Witness, 2012). The implementation of the VPA-FLEGT promotes forest law enforcement, improves forest governance, and enhances transparency, which strongly results in sustainable forest development (Neupane et al., 2019).