Civil society consultation on Vietnam’s legality of timber and timber products
On 23rd -24th November, 2012, the Center for People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) in collaboration with the Center for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD) organized a two day consultation workshop for civil society organization on Vietnam’s legality of timber and timber products. The event also was opportunity for the Vietnamese Non-Governmental Organizations Network for Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (VNGO-FLEGT) members plan their main activities for the year 2013.
The workshop is one of VNGOs-FLEGT’s capacity building and participation activities in negotiation process between Vietnamese government and European Union (EU) on the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) and Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). Over 40 representatives from nearly 30 civil society organizations (NGOs/CSOs), including: members of VNGO-FLEGT, European Forest Institute (EFI) and experts participated in the workshop.
Main objective of the workshop is to inform, discuss and unify some initial results of community consultation on legality of timber and timber products activities, that were conducted from 9th – 11thNovember 2012 by VNGO-FLECT in 06 provinces: Yen Bai, Bac Kan, Thanh Hoa, Thua Thien Hue, Lam Dong and Ba Ria-Vung Tau. More than 30 local communities in 14 communes of 6 districts were selected for participating in these consultation activities. They are local forest-dependent communities living in and near forest, known as forest owners or contractees to forest management, protection or exploitation in both natural and plantation forest areas.
The initial results show that, there is limitation in community awareness on legality of timber and timber products. In case of timber from plantation forests, most of communities do not concern about legality of timber and timber products. The reason is that products from plantation forests (standing trees) are usually sold all to buyers and these people have to comply all legal procedures from exploitation to transportation phase. In case of timber from natural forests, legal procedures are complied by forestry enterprises that carry out timber exploitation. In some other cases, even communities have rights as natural forest owners that are official allocated by Vietnamese government, they are also very vague about legality of forest timber.
Policy on contracting natural forest management and protection as well as forest plantation lands for households, household groups or village communities are implemented in many provinces nationwide. During exploitation period, contractors (state forest owners) will conduct legal procedures related to exploitation design and organization, and then decide a sharing proportion of products (timber) for both contractors and contractees bases on signed contracts. By this way, it is very difficult for contractees to know the volume of harvested timber because they are not able to participate or monitor during timber exploitation process in contracted forest areas.
Additionally, although forest exploitation process has been complied with regulations on environmental impact assessment, in fact, it still causes negative impacts on environmental and local communities living adjacent exploited areas, especially in some areas, it can cause depletion of water resources and dangerous flash floods.
In order to ensure rights and benefits of local communities when Vietnam officially joined in VPA/FLEGT, VNGO-FLEGT suggests that a risk assessment of timber benefit mechanism should be conducted. Then, base on the study’s results, some risk management solutions in VPA/FLEGT implementation process will be recommended.
In cases of natural forest management/protection contracts (if exploitation) or forest land contracts, contractees should be able to participate in monitoring exploitation process in forest contracted areas (in collaborate with forest ranger department) to ensure transparency and equitable of timber benefit sharing mechanism.
For communities living adjacent natural forest areas, the role of forest in environmental protection is very important, especially in regulating water resources, hence, we should apply “restricted exploitation” method in the certain forest areas. In phases of exploitation design and implementation, a community consultation should be carried out to achieve consent of local communities, especially community participation in exploitation monitoring process (in collaboration with forest ranger department) is needed.
In parallel with the recommendations above, the State also needs to quickly issue official certificates of land-use rights (“red book”) for forest owners who has already been allocated forest lands, and households who have not had “red book” yet but already used forest land areas in stable and long term without disputes. The idea can help local communities legally eligible to participate in VPA/FLEGT process.
VNGO-FLEGT will sum up these initial results of community consultation activities and share to all stakeholders in negotiation process between Vietnamese government and European Union on FLEGT/VPA. These results will contribute to efforts for implementation in controlling illegal timber exploitation and trafficking; strengthening forest legal and institutional system toward sustainable forest management and ensuring equitable benefit and responsibility sharing mechanism among local communities, enterprises and related forest owners.