Illegal logging and the illicit timber trade thrive when legal frameworks, rights and benefits are unclear and complex to enforce. Transparency is therefore at the heart of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) and over the last decade, countries implementing or negotiating a VPA have made important advances in processing, collecting, monitoring and publishing information on the forest sector and related activities.
Both in the negotiation and the implementation phase, the VPA process has provided governments with incentives to improve transparency. Much more needs to be done, however, to ensure that low-tech (concessions registers and tracking documents) and high-tech (such as satellite imaging) transparency informs virtuous policy-making and practices that contribute to healthier forests and forest sectors, and coherent land use planning.
This VPA update focuses on the benefits already achieved in terms of transparency, as well as the steps that still need to be taken. In terms of global biodiversity, climate, and the ancestral homes and livelihoods of the people who depend on forests, a great deal is at stake.