This is the Vietnam update for Forest watch special: VPA update November 2016.
Official VPA status: in negotiation since 2010
Although the EU and Vietnamese government now see no major issue to impede the conclusion of VPA negotiations before the end of this year, it is difficult for CSOs to have an informed position because of the lack of access to the annexes. A particular area of concern for instance is the apparently limited obligation for government to respond to complaints from CSOs and other independent monitors. Without the guarantees from monitors who are independent of government the fear is that the EU could be legitimising business-as-usual by concluding negoitaitons. There is no civil society seat forseen at the Joint Implementing Committee for Vietnam’s VPA.
A national consultation day was held in late October, including government, private sector and civil society participants. This was the first time Vietnamese CSOs have been able to see the detailed draft VPA texts in years, and they were only made available on the day of the consultation. No English-language texts have been made available since 2012.
Although CSOs recognise some progress in provisions for controlling imported timber, and the fact that the TLAS will apply to all markets, there has been no improvement in term of space for CSOs to effectively participate in the VPA negotiation process and ensure their concerns are adequately represented.
There is also a fear that texts can be worded well and agreed in principle but there will be no mechanism to ensure the provisions of the agreement will necessarily be put into practice. The NGO FLEGT network is therefore continuously striving for formal recognition of their role in independent monitoring of the VPA process. They have restated their willingness and desire to take on this role both directly to the EC, and in country at various events such as a policy workshop on the role of CSOs which they organised, proposing to work within the framework of a collaboration programme between VUSTA (the umbrella organization for VNGOs) and VNFOREST as a platform to take this forward.
Despite being denied a more formal role, the VNGO network has been working on a series of initiatives to contribute to influence the process: convening a workshop to provide inputs into a draft circular guiding the harvesting, salvaging of timber and non-timber products – an important input for the legality definition, and training members on methodologies and tools for conducting legality definition baseline studies, three of which will be conducted, the results of which will provide inputs for legality definition compliance, land tenure policy briefs and for the draft Forest Law.
Last July in Brussels, during the stakeholders’ debrief that happened after the fifteen Joint Expert Meeting (JEM), CSOs reminded the Parties of the necessity to improve participation of CSOs in the process and to formalize CSOs’ role in the evaluation of the VPA which is a prerequisite to have a credible VPA. At the same time, a parliamentary question was sent to the Commission on the mechanisms foreseen by the VPA to enable CSOs supporting forest communities and households to take part in the independent evaluation of the VPA.
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.