The Report

Governance: How has the EU FLEGT Action Plan influenced governance?

Tuesday 17 March, from 14:30 to 18:00



  • For some stakeholders FLEGT, through the VPAs, has gone beyond the initial expectations. Although participation of civil society organisations and communities is usually quite limited or nonexistent in shaping texts of legally binding trade agreements, FLEGT proved that not only the participation levels can be high but also that they are crucial for achieving high quality legally binding trade agreements.
  • Politically smart, locally led bargaining is leading FLEGT to help countries change from informal power-based politics to more formal rules-based processes, which are aligned with best practices for addressing governance challenges.
  • FLEGT is influencing governance even beyond VPA countries and this indirect, global influence is considered important for countries such as Brazil.
  • Domestic market and land tenure were highlighted as key issues to be better addressed in the future. Corruption and effective law enforcement also need sustained attention.
  • FLEGT would benefit from linking to the climate change agenda.


Eleven panelists from academia, VPA and non VPA countries, research and policy institutes, NGOs and private sector offered their perspectives on whether FLEGT has and can further influence governance. The overwhelming answer from the panelists was ‘yes'. Indeed there are challenges, but FLEGT and especially the VPAs are well positioned as a tool to continue to work on these challenges.

Panelists that have been involved in FLEGT since the beginning brought participants back to 2003 and recalled that the Action Plan aimed to address land tenure, stakeholder participation, transparency, corruption, rule of law, policy and legal reform, as well as accountability in the forest sector. 

The NGO community in Europe was critical of FLEGT in its early days. No one expected that by 2015 civil society organizations (CSOs) would be involved in forest monitoring that is recognized by governments; that these CSOs would be dialoguing and sharing information with other CSOs across continents; that Liberian communities after years of trying to address an old problem - communities to receive proceeds from logging operations as outlined in law - would actually see it solved through the FLEGT process; and that FLEGT would allow CSOs to challenge the way special permits and private use permits were being issued. The national and international visibility and pressure has been instrumental in instigating policy change. 


Patrice Kamkuimo, Cameroon:

"FLEGT has pushed access to forest information where it is no longer considered a favor, but actually a legal right. But the challenge of effective implementation still remains."

The public procurement policy of Ghana received special mention as a tool that is helping to formalize domestic market and artisanal milling. This tool also has emerged during the time and discussions of the VPA.

VPA countries shared their experiences, both from a government perspective as well as civil society perspective, noting that the culture of decision making has changed. Participation has been taken to new heights and opportunities to influence policy have increased. 

Examples from Indonesia and Honduras highlighted how the VPA has helped to reinforce and complement the national forest governance processes that started prior to the VPA negotiations. 


Agus Sarsito, Indonesia:

"The VPA has given additional ammunition for better forest governance, even if we had started the work on our timber legality assurance system, SVLK, already long before entering in the VPA negotiations."

Challenges exist but all noted the manner in which stakeholders interact has dramatically changed. The ‘revolutionary' effect this is having is confirmed by recent policy research. Policy research is showing that politically smart, locally led processes, that are problemdriven and involve coalitions of different interests are leading to bargaining andcompromise and are demonstrating the way forward to achieve incremental change on the ground. FLEGT is doing all of these things, demonstrating that it is aligned with best practices for addressing governance challenges.

Legislative reform, transparency, broad stakeholder involvement in decision making, accountability, space to address and discuss ways to tackle corruption, influencing the power base and formalizing rules, all were areas the panelists highlighted as ways FLEGT was influencing governance. It was also mentioned that such governance improvements are the foundation of a good business environment, and a key factor for attracting and encouraging private sector investment. 


Anand Punja, UK Timber Trade Federation:

"Good governance for us is the key foundation for better rules-based institutions, leading to better long-term certainty that creates an improved investment climate for our members".

Political and policy research also highlighted that FLEGT has created the largest global forest related coalition in the world, uniting and communicating to solve issues together, learning from each other.

VPA processes to date have shown that including the domestic market and artisanal sector in a formal system is challenging and often requires revision of policy and legislation with special consideration for livelihoods and capacities. Despite the challenges, consideration for the domestic market is a necessary element for the future. Indeed, the domestic timber markets in tropical countries are often bigger than export timber markets, so a narrow focus of FLEGT on only the export market would risk being ineffective. 

Panelists from non-VPA countries outlined how the global interest in legality, lead by the EU and the buzz around FLEGT have prompted change in their own countries. Even if VPAs will not be the mechanism their countries would turn to, it seems the lessons FLEGT is producing are as applicable for their country as those that are engaged or interested to engage in a VPA. 

Stakeholders identified several opportunities for the lessons from FLEGT to be shared across a range of other sectors, especially considering different driving forces of deforestation.

A question from the audience raised concern regarding calls for simplification and streamlining to make the process faster. Simplification and streamlining are welcome in order to reach better results faster, however we should be sure that shortcuts or limiting the time for dialogue vital to sustainable governance reforms will not take place. 

A number of panelists talked about corruption. They said that 10 to 15 years ago illegal logging was an impossible topic to raise in meetings with the government. The fact that the issue is now discussed more openly is an achievement in itself. However, corruption still seriously undermines good governance and fuels illegal logging. For many, it is the heart of the issue and FLEGT needs to help publics and civil society push for transparent accountability to tackle this issue. Discussion also highlighted that effective law enforcement was crucial for better governance. In many cases this is still insufficient and needs sustained attention in the future.

Additional highlights for the future focus of FLEGT included continued attention to domestic market reforms, in particular support to small holders and producers. This links to the issues around land tenure and ensuring reform in this area.


Saskia Ozinga, FERN:

"Many people see FLEGT as primarily about the forest, but there is no way to protect the forest without the people."


FLEGT is a unique initiative that brings together a coalition of interests that have enabled countries and stakeholders both in VPA countries and non-VPA countries to tackle longstanding governance challenges. These issues include having a voice to influence policy decisions, corruption and lack of transparency and accountability. FLEGT can be a tool to catalyze change in other processes such as climate change, but also needs to continue in its own right and put emphasis on domestic market issues, corruption, law enforcement and effective clarification of land tenure. 


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Moderator Fred Pearce, freelance journalist


  • Agus Sarsito, Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia
  • Misael León, The National Institute for Conservation and Forest Development, Protected Areas, and Wildlife, Honduras
  • Patrice Kamkuimo, Centre for Environment and Development, Cameroon
  • Sue Unsworth, The Policy Practice
  • Saskia Ozinga, FERN
  • Anand Punja, UK Timber Trade Federation
  • Chris Beeko, Forestry Commission Ghana
  • Roberto Waack, Amata S.A., Brazil
  • Faith Doherty, Environmental Investigation Agency
  • Ben Cashore, Yale University
  • Ruth Nogueron, World Resource Institute

Reporter Melissa Othman and Lea Turunen, EU FLEGT Facility

Presentations and materials

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