This is the Central African Republic update for Forest watch special: VPA update November 2016.
Official VPA status: in negotiation since 2013
After considerable delay, work on the implementing decrees to the 2014 Forest Code began on the 19th April 2016. The drafting process is being led by the Forest & Water Ministry (MINEF), supported by legal consultants from Ernst & Young, and financed by the French Development Agency (AFD). So far, twenty implementing decrees have been drafted, and are awaiting validation by the different stakeholder groups. Ivorian civil society has participated in the drafting process via consultation sessions to which they have sent around five representatives, and a civil society lawyer is included in the inter-ministerial drafting committee. Some civil society members do complain that the process has been too rushed, and has not sufficiently taken on board the positions of civil society or the private sector. In June, the Forest Ministry provided draft documents just one working day before the consultation session was scheduled. After formal complaints from civil society, consultation was put back by three weeks to enable everyone to examine the documents. There is a tension in which pursuing the VPA negotiation process seems to be encouraging the government to push through Forest Code related work more quickly without allowing time for full stakeholder participation, although at the same time it is the VPA process which has encouraged the government to open up the reform process to participation in the first place.
Two of the key implementing regulations of importance to civil society—on participation of communities in decisions around forest management, and on civil society independent monitoring of the forest sector—were removed from the list of implementing regulations to be approved at the next validation session. Civil society is determined to ensure these implementing regulations in particular do not drop off the agenda.
In terms of progress on the VPA itself, work on the legality assurance system (système de verification de légalité- SVL) is still in progress. Work has recommenced on the legality grid principles most relevant to communities—principles 2, 3 and 7, which cover issues like workers’ rights, concession allocation processes, and benefit-sharing agreements between logging companies and communities. The work on these principles had previously been suspended because they depend on the content of the Forest Code implementing regulations.
It has been decided that Cote d’Ivoire will have six separate legality grids, each associated with different origin categories for wood (eg. state-managed natural forests, plantations, areas outside the forest domain, etc). Discussions are also ongoing around how to formalise the activities of artisanal loggers in the domestic market, who are currently operating outside the law. The working group on communication and transparency has finished drafting a transparency annex, which sets out a list of documents that the government must make publicly available. This has now been submitted to the European Union and is awaiting their feedback.
The Ivorian civil society platform engaged in the VPA process, the Ivorian Observatory on the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (Observatoire Ivoirien pour la gestion durable des Ressources Naturelles—OI-REN), is currently organising their first general assembly.The platform will resolve key questions around internal organisation, and elect representatives in the VPA process.
This is an entry from the latest Forest Watch special VPA update, an occasional publication by LoggingOff and Fern. The VPA update provides a roundup of developments across countries involved in VPA processes, from a civil society perspective. This edition is from November 2016.