This briefing outlines Civil Society’s involvement in the EU-Laos Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). It explains how their engagement is influencing the content, improving forest governance and offering opportunities previously closed to them.
Members of Forest Watch Ghana (FWG), a coalition of 32 non-governmental organisations and individuals in Ghana, having met at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) from 26th to 30th of March, 2019, in Accra issued this communique after having considered and discussed some crucial issues within the country’s forestry sector, including: the gradual conversion of the Kalakpa Nature Reserve from a Wildlife Protected Area to a logging hub; the need for consolidating the laws of the forestry sector; conversion of Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs) to logging areas; the on-going tree tenure reforms; the resurgence of illegal mining vis-a-vis the recent exposé on galamsey by Tiger Eye PI, the ace investigative journalism organisation; and the rather low appreciation for ecosystems/biodiversity services and values by the general populace.
This Policy Brief argues for an approach that situates forest and forest resources at the center of sustainable development efforts in forest communities. It proposes, for example that community forestry should be oriented towards social empowerment and community-owned enterprise development, and move away from the rent-seeking approach in which communities look to logging companies because they promise jobs, roads, schools, clinics, and clean water
In March 2019, the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) had its 6-year anniversary.
The need to strengthen efforts to better implement the EUTR was underlined by the European Commission in its biennial report on EUTR implementation published in October 2018. Although the report shows that there has been significant progress in EUTR enforcement in Member States, uneven implementation is still a problem.
The deficiencies in EUTR implementation were highlighted in many NGO reports indicating that there are serious concerns that illegally harvested timber has been placed on the EU market. A Global Witness report focuses on timber imports from the Democratic Republic of Congo, EIA investigations revealed that illegally harvested timber from Myanmar might have been exported to the EU, Earthsight reported on irregularities related to timber trade with Ukraine.
EUTR Expert Group meetings hosted by the European Commission focused on the problem of risks related to timber imports from Myanmar, Brazil and Ukraine. The topic of forest governance in Ukraine became a subject of international debate after the publication of an Earthsight report, which was further discussed at the 28th Global Forum on Forest Governance at Chatham House.
Discussions were also held in relation to the product scope of the EUTR. Although the European Commission ran a consultation on this issue in early 2018, so far no proposal to amend the product scope has been made.
In order to make forestry laws more accessible, ClientEarth launched the ‘Forest Logbook’ which provides information on legal regulations regarding forestry in EU Member States and globally.
In October 2018, Vietnam and the European Union (EU) signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) to ensure that timber exported to the EU does not come from illegal sources. As part of the Agreement, the EU requires governments to consult with forestry sector stakeholders. To support this aim, a Multi-stakeholder Core Group has been formed and the fifth Multi-stakeholder Core Group Meeting (CGM) took place in Hanoi on 5 March 2019.
The Multi-stakeholder Core Group includes representatives from civil society organisations (CSOs), as well as the private sector, research institutes and development partners. The Group provides a forum to discuss VPA implementation and propose issues for consideration by the Joint Implementation Committee.
This was the first CGM since the signing of the VPA, and it was attended by 40 people. In addition to regular participants, those attending included representatives from the EU Delegation, the donor community, international environmental NGOs, timber associations, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO). This enabled in-depth and strategic discussions.
Next steps to implementing the timber legality assurance system
Dr Prof. Pham Van Dien, Deputy Director General of VNFOREST opened the event, by expressing the Vietnam Government’s openness to contributions and feedback from stakeholders. The head of the Vietnam Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) office, Ms Nguyen Tuong Van explains the next steps as outlined in December 2018 by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) in the VPA/FLEGT Implementation Plan.
VNFOREST will work on seven main tasks, many of which require the involvement and contribution of the Core Group:
- Ratification and approval by the government.
- Development of legislative documents and guidelines such as the Decree of the Vietnam Timber Legality Assurance System (VNTLAS).
- Vietnam authorities establish infrastructures for the operation system.
- The core-group build capacity of relevant stakeholders like small and medium enterprises so the latter can comply with the new regulations.
- The government and the core-group communicate progress in Vietnam and abroad.
- Implementation of the VNTLAS will be monitored and evaluated.
- All activities related to the VPA and FLEGT in Vietnam and internationally will be connected and supported by the government and its partners.
Ms. Van concluded that: “By the end of 2020, VNTLAS is expected to be ready so Vietnam can issue FLEGT licenses… Both the EU and the Vietnamese government will try to accelerate the process. MARD has officially submitted the plan to develop the Decree on VNTLAS. By December 2019, the Decree must be submitted to the government for approval. In June, the first draft is expected to be ready and available online for consultation and correction for 45 days. VNFOREST expects to receive comments and feedback so they can create a meaningful Decree.”
The government, the timber industry, NGOs and CSOs are all interested in contributing to the final Decree and putting in place the VNTLAS.
Monitoring the impacts of implementation:
VPA implementation will have important economic, social and environmental impacts, therefore it is crucial to monitor its implementation. The Vietnam VPA FLEGT facilitator, M. Edwin Shanks, presented the draft VPA Monitoring and Evaluation Framework and received questions from CSOs, International NGOs, academia and the timber industry.
Points raised included the importance of implementing the Transparency Annex, and how to monitor illegal imported timber. The chair of the VNGO-FLEGT network, Mrs Hợp Vu Thị Bích, underlined that issues related to forestry households and micro and small enterprises (MSEs) should be heard by the Joint Preparation Committee (JPC) and later this year the Joint Implementation Committee (JIP) and not only the CGM. She pointed out that by monitoring impact, the VNGO-FLEGT network is connecting millions of timber-dependent Vietnamese people to decision makers and explained that it would therefore be legitimate for the network to be represented in the JPC and JIC meetings. The request was approved and VNGO-FLEGT representative have already joined a meeting on 8 March 2019.
The 5th core group meeting marked a milestone for active multi-stakeholder participation. The VNGO-FLEGT network is eager to participate in the upcoming core group meetings and in the joint implementation committee, and to provide updates/support from the ground.
Up to 2.5 billion people hold and use the world’s community lands, yet the tenure rights of women—who comprise more than half the population of the world’s Indigenous Peoples and local communities—are seldom acknowledged or protected by national laws. Although gender norms and women’s forest tenure security vary widely across community-based tenure systems, this analysis concludes that national laws and regulations on the rights of indigenous and rural women to inheritance, community membership, community-level governance, and community-level dispute resolution are consistently unjust, falling far below the requirements of international law and related standards.
The 30 low- and middle-income countries analyzed in this study are ill-positioned to meet their obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; non-binding international guidance such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security; and the Sustainable Development Goals, all of which necessitate the statutory recognition of women’s rights to community forests. Inadequate legal protections for the tenure rights of indigenous and rural women fail to reflect existing gender-equitable practices in indigenous and local communities, and enable other community practices that discriminate against women, thereby weakening women’s tenure rights, jeopardizing the livelihoods of women and their families, and threatening the advancement of entire communities.
March 2018 Update: A companion analysis, Legislative Best Practices for Securing Women’s Rights to Community Lands, is now available. Download it here or in the “Relates Analyses” section below, where you can find more resources.
April 2019 Update: A third analysis, Strengthening Indigenous and Rural Women’s Rights to Govern Community Lands: Ten Factors Contributing to Successful Initiatives, is now available. Download it here.
Legally recognized and secure land and resource rights are fundamental to the advancement of global peace, prosperity, and sustainability. From the development of human cultures to the realization of democracy itself, tenure security underpins the very fabric of human society and our relationship to the natural environment. Today, insecure tenure rights threaten the livelihoods and wellbeing of a third of the world’s population, and with it, the very future of our planet. As the historical stewards of the world’s lands and forests, Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and rural women play a critical role in the management and sustainable use of globally significant natural resource systems. In effect, protecting their rights protects everyone’s right to live in a more just, prosperous, and verdant world.
Governments, however, have so far been slow to recognize and secure the collective land and resource rights of rural communities. As a result, even though Indigenous Peoples and local communities customarily claim and manage over 50 percent of the world’s lands, they legally own just 10 percent. In order to eliminate poverty; prevent the spread of social and political conflicts; and ensure progress toward global climate, conservation, and development goals, urgent actions are needed to redress this fundamental injustice.
Fortunately, the world has never been better positioned to close this gap.
Despite the substantial forest area held, claimed, and managed by Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and rural women, the vast majority of the world’s forests formally remain under government administration as national or provincial forests, protected areas, or forests allocated to third parties under concessions. Given evidence that deforestation rates are often lower and carbon sequestration greater in forests where Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ rights are legally recognized, there is an urgent need to scale up tenure reform in order to safeguard the world’s remaining forests.
This analysis reports on trends in global forest tenure over the fifteen-year period from 2002-2017. It is the fourth in a series of analyses monitoring the legal recognition of forest tenure around the world according to four categories of legally recognized (statutory) forest tenure: government administered, designated for Indigenous Peoples and local communities, owned by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and privately owned by individuals and firms.
Notwithstanding the limited progress overall, emerging evidence and opportunities provide reason for hope: across the same 41 countries, two-thirds of the advancement in community tenure between 2013-2017 relate to increases in community forest ownership, with over 90 percent of this progress stemming from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Moreover, recent laws in a number of countries establish new legal pathways for communities to own their forests under national law. Together, these advancements signal possible movement toward the recognition of additional and more robust forest tenure rights for Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
Forests and other lands are essential for achieving climate and development ambitions. If appropriately leveraged, natural climate solutions can contribute upwards of 37 percent of cost-effective CO2 mitigation by 2030,1 and evidence shows Indigenous Peoples and local communities are key to achieving such outcomes.
This report presents the most comprehensive assessment to date of carbon storage in documented community lands worldwide.
- Indigenous Peoples and local communities manage at least 17 percent (~300 billion Mt) of the total carbon stored in the forestlands of assessed countries—a global estimate that is 5 times greater than shown in a previous analysis of aboveground tropical forest carbon, equivalent to 33 times the global energy emissions of 2017.
- Twenty two percent (217,991 MtC) of the forest carbon found in the 52 tropical and subtropical countries in this analysis is stewarded by communities, and one-third of this (72,079 MtC) is located in areas where Indigenous Peoples and local communities lack formal recognition of their tenure rights—putting them, their lands, and the carbon stored therein at risk.
- Soil organic carbon accounts for almost 65 percent (113,218 Mt) and nearly 90 percent (105,606 Mt) of the total forest carbon managed by communities in tropical and non-tropical forest countries, respectively. By protecting their forests and lands, communities are not only maintaining the carbon stored in the trees (above and below ground), but are also in effect protecting vast reservoirs of carbon that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere if the overlying forests were destroyed.
- Carbon storage in collective lands is far greater and more extensive than what can be assessed through available data. This assessment remains an underestimate of carbon stored in collective forestlands worldwide. The full extent of forests and other lands held by indigenous and local communities—and particularly those where communities have yet to achieve legal recognition of their rights—is unknown and spatially explicit data concerning these areas remains lacking. Thus, vast stores of carbon within collective lands in carbon-rich countries such as Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo remain undocumented.