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Vietnam expects to have its VPA timber legality assurance system in place within two years, its FLEGT VPA Multi-stakeholder Core Group (MCG) heard at its fifth meeting in March. The MCG was set up in 2018 to provide a forum for stakeholders to discuss VPA implementation and propose issues for consideration by the Joint Implementation Committee.

The FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Programme has released over a quarter of a million dollars to finance stake holder communication on Vietnam’s FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) Timber Legality Assurance System.

Forests need to be ‘front and centre’ of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the European Consensus on Development – and the EU FLEGT initiative can be one key to marrying forest maintenance and wider sustainability policy. That was the view expressed by European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, at the Our forests, our future conference in Brussels late April. (Photo left: Neven Mimica)

The Honduran government and the EU have approved Honduras’s FLEGT VPA 2019 annual operation plan and latest reports are that there is widespread support for the agreement, particularly in terms of levels of participation and engagement of the wider population. (Photo left: Allan Bergman)

The UK and Indonesia have signed an agreement committing the former to continued recognition of FLEGT licences after Brexit. The UK Department for Environment (Defra) confirmed the arrangement on its twitter page on March 29.

The PEFC officially endorsed the Indian Certification Standard for Sustainable Forest on 23 February. No forests have yet been certified under the standard, but Vijai Sharma, Chairman of The Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF), maintained that sanction from the PEFC would now lead to ‘Indian forest managers further strengthening their sustainable forest management practices, in line with global standards and multilateral requirements’.

 The Guyana Environmental Protection Agency has run further capacity building workshops for community forest operators on legality compliance under its EU FLEGT programme. The latest events focused on the country’s ‘environmental authorisation process’ under its Environmental Protection Act. It attracted 86 operators taking the total number of participants at the EPA’s latest workshop series to 246.

ClientEarth has created an online portal providing links to sources of information on national forestry law worldwide.The environmental law charity says that the Forest Logbook hub is targeted at ‘forest defenders’ and managers, including lawyers, communities NGOs, importers, logging operators and regulators.

SMEs and micro-businesses are notoriously difficult to reach or influence at scale in any industry. Recent research in the timber industry however revealed that even a limited number of industry associations have the potential to reach thousands of micro-businesses.  It showed that twenty-five associations in eight African countries represent over 13,000 companies, with 80% defined as micro-sized.  A typical micro-business may cover a wide range of activities from small logging companies to skilled production companies, such as joinery and furniture. Many of these usually serve the local market and as such are not exposed to international market drivers.

The key message of the latest VPA JIC meeting in Congo is that solid progress is being made to develop timber legality verification procedures in line with FLEGT requirements.

Ghana demonstrated its Wood Tracking System and other elements of its Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) to stakeholders from Republic of Congo (RoC) and Laos in a five-day event at the end of November. The multi-country information exchange included two conference days and a three-day field trip to the forest and timber processing companies in the Sefwi-Wiawso forest district in western Ghana.

Guyana has become only the second Central/South American country to complete its FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement, following the initialling by Honduras of its VPA earlier this year.