The Report

Closing plenary 

Thurday 19 March, from 11:15 to 12:30

 

Highlights

  • FLEGT Week brought together nearly 300 participants from more than 50 countries.
  • Participants reviewed progress that has been made through the EU FLEGT Action Plan and made clear recommendations for the future of the fight against illegal logging
  • What was an EU initiative is now a global alliance
  • FLEGT cannot address all challenges
  • Private sector is generally supportive of VPAs but more attention is needed on SMEs
  • More effective implementation of the EU FLEGT Action Plan and great coordination with related initiatives in other markets is needed
  • VPA partner countries close to FLEGT licensing asked for support for marketing in consumer countries
  • Speakers from civil society called for a new Action Plan that addresses the wider challenges of deforestation

Summary 

FLEGT Week ended with an upbeat closing plenary. Andy Roby summarised the main outcomes and recommendations that participants had identified over the week. He also offered, on behalf of participants, the following recommendations:

  • Use FLEGT instruments to address illegal conversion
  • Link to climate change agenda
  • Deliver FLEGT licences
  • Streamline processes and keep systems simple yet solid
  • Align consumer markets and go global
  • Strengthen enforcement
  • Mobilise finance and investment
  • Promote synergies between VPAs and certification
  • Strengthen implementation of EU Timber Regulation and other demand-side measures

Panel discussion

Roberto Ridolfi asked a panel of experts for their visions for future action against illegal logging.

A view from Ghana

Raphael Yeboah said Ghana had come a long way in its VPA process and that FLEGT licences were "almost there". His expectations from consumer markets were for "aggressive market promotion and awareness-raising" to reward Ghana's efforts. He also called for continual engagement with the private sector and civil society in consumer countries. Among producer countries, he urged stronger collaboration and for such countries to communicate the same messages about FLEGT licenced timber.

A view from civil society

Saskia Ozinga noted the "enormous transformational power" of FLEGT. VPAs countries represent 75% of tropical timber import in the EU. She hailed the transparency and participation that make VPAs distinct from all other EU trade agreements. However, she pointed out that most deforestation today is not from the forestry sector but from conversion of forests for agriculture, much of it illegal.

To address conversion timber, Ozinga said effective implementation of the EUTR should be the EU's "absolute priority". She said loopholes in VPAs "could be easily closed" and that VPAs should consider not only national statutory law but also international and customary law. To ensure greater policy coherence she urged the EU to develop an action plan to address deforestation.

A view from the private sector

Ralph Ridder noted many positive developments over the past 12 years, but that there had been a loss of momentum in some VPA processes. This had made parts of the private sector sceptical about VPAs. It was essential therefore to address the lack of political will in certain countries and increase trust in the process among elements of the private sectors.

He described the EU Timber Regulation as being a "stick without offering a carrot". He said that one way for the EU to address this and create incentives would be with marketing support. Ridder also called for more cost effective approaches.

A view from Indonesia

Agus Sarsito reminded the audience that Indonesia began developing its timber legality assurance system, the SVLK, four years before VPA negotiations started. He said the system was "not almost there. We are there." Noting that Australia already recognised the SVLK, he urged the EU to do so as soon as possible to reward the long effort Indonesia has made.

A view from an EU member state

Matthias Schwoerer said the EU FLEGT Action Plan had opened a new culture of debate in Europe and Germany that "cannot be underestimated". He said the German market was looking forward to the first FLEGT-licensed timber. He noted, however, the market distortion that arises from uneven implementation of the EU Timber Regulation. He called therefore for effective enforcement by all EU Member States.

Schwoerer said that, for the next 10 years, we need a new kind of programme. He said this should take account of emerging issues, link up with other initiatives and "wake up" the sleeping aspects of the EU FLEGT Action Plan –such as the role of investment and finance. Rather than an action plan on deforestation, he would like the EU to develop an action plan on sustainable forests. This should bring in renewable energy policy as well as certification.

A view from the United States

In a video message, Earl Blumenauer described the USA and EU as leaders in the movement to bring transparency and accountability to the global wood products market. "Only a united approach can bring the changes we need." He acknowledged that progress in implementing the US Lacey Act Amendment was ongoing, needing great efficiency, enforcement and inter-agency coordination. Blumenauer also noted the relevance of FLEGT to climate change, saying that a 20% decline in illegal logging had prevented a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Final words from the panel

Ridolfi challenged the panellists to leave the audience with one final message. This is what they said:

  • Saskia Ozinga: "Let's make transformation happen!"
  • Raphael Yeboah: "VPAs are achievable and we should make the effort."
  • Ralph Ridder: "We need to deliver on VPAs, EUTR and public procurement policies, but not overload these tools. They must be pragmatic, robust and feasible."
  • Agus Sarsito: "Let's do it! Don't delay or we lose the moment."
  • Matthias Schwoerer: "Implement what we have and create a new action plan for sustaining forests."

The view from the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development

Neven Mimica spoke of the importance of forests to economies, biodiversity, human development and efforts to address climate change. In terms of threats forests face, he said the EU, as a major market, was both part of the problem and of the solution. He praised FLEGT for approach to good governance and said it could inspire future initiatives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

He noted however that without political will and full participation by the private sector, FLEGT and VPAs could not succeed. He paid tribute to activists who had been jailed or killed for defending forests and asked partner governments to ensure the protection of forest defenders. Commissioner Mimica restated the EU's commitment to remain in the lead and called for more effective FLEGT processes matching ambition with reality. He thanked the participants for the reflections and suggestions formulated in the course of the week as those will feed into the ongoing evaluation of the EU FLEGT Action Plan and future EU action in this area.


The slideshow

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Featuring

Closing speech Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development

Moderator Roberto Ridolfi, European Commission

Panelists

  • Andy Roby, Forest advisor
  • Raphael Yeboah, Forestry Commission of Ghana
  • US Congressman Earl Blumenauer
  • Matthias Schwoerer, Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture of Germany
  • Agus Sarsito, Center for Forestry Standardisation and Environment 
  • Ralph Ridder, ATIBT
  • Saskia Ozinga, FERN

Reporter Mike Shanahan