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Congo Republic establishes committee for overseeing rollout of TLAS

The 11th meeting of the FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) between the Republic of the Congo and the European Union was held in Brazzaville on 20-21 November 2019. The aide-memoire of the meeting has been made available on the FLEGT VPA website.

Presentations during the technical session (Day 1) included updates on latest and ongoing developments, with a highlight on the country’s Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS). A first demonstration of the system’s online portal (SIVL) and functionalities was made. The SIVL, which currently consists of two initial modules (i.e. taxation; and special logging permits) out of  seventeen ultimately, is to be further interfaced with existing systems at the level of Tax and Customs, the Ministry of Finance & Budget, logging companies, as well as information systems pertaining to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

In line with the VPA commitments in terms of access to information, the latest reports of the TLAS Independent Auditor have been validated and should be published shortly. 

Other recent developments that were covered during the technical session included the validation of the FLEGT VPA communications strategy and the release of the 2018 VPA Joint Annual Report. Participants were also provided with further clarification regarding the nature and scope of the nascent Standardised External Independent Monitoring System, which is currently being developed based on its Cameroonian counterpart to enhance and complement the work of the mandated Independent Forest Monitor in Congo.

The high-level session (Day 2) was co-chaired by the Republic of the Congo’s minister of Forest economy, Ms. Rosalie Matondo, and Ambassador Raul Mateus Paula, head of the EU delegation in the Republic of the Congo. Importantly, it was announced during the session that the long-awaited Decree establishing the inter-ministerial committee in charge of overseeing roll-out and funding of the TLAS, had been signed by the President of the Republic the day before. This represents a critical step forward in the government taking full ownership of the TLAS.

Next steps in VPA implementation include further sensitisation of private sector operators around the uptake and use of the SIVL. This is to be carried out by the ATIBT in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Budget and the Cellule de Légalité Forestière et Traçabilité (CLFT – the government body in charge of legality verification).

The ATIBT has played a crucial role in fostering private sector inputs into the revised Forest code, the re-examination of which has been slated for the final Parliamentary session of 2019. Of particular concern to the sector are tentative provisions about the mandatory share of processed products being brought up to 100% of timber exports (instead of 85% today), and a yet-to-be-specified production-sharing scheme whereby part of the timber harvested by companies (or the proceeds of sale) would go to the government.

In 2018, the country reportedly exported nearly 1.1 million cubic meters of timber, of which 82,5% were destined for Asia, against 15,5% for the EU.

The newly recruited IMM correspondent for the Republic of the Congo attended the JIC meeting and gave a presentation on the role of the FLEGT IMM and proposed scope in the country. All stakeholders welcomed this as an opportunity to access reliable statistics and analysis on timber trade, timber prices, and the impacts of FLEGT on the forest sector. A section dedicated to the work of the IMM has been included in the work plan of the 2019 VPA Joint Annual Report.