The National Congress of Honduras ratified the country’s FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU on June 29, making it the first Latin American state to reach this stage of the VPA process. Honduras started FLEGT negotiations with the EU in 2013 and initialled its VPA in June 2018, again the first Latin American country to get to this point of the initiative, with Guyana initialling in November that year. Honduras signed the agreement in February 2021.
The official statement at the time said that the move ultimately sets the country on track to start FLEGT licensing its timber exports. This, stated the EU, will not only facilitate access of its timber and wood products to the EU by exempting them further due diligence under the EU Timber Regulation, but also ‘support its efforts to meet equivalent legal requirements of markets beyond the EU’.
The Honduran authorities have been working closely on the VPA with the FAO-EU FLEGT Program, which has provided technical and financial support. FAO, working in conjunction with the Honduras Forest Conservation Institute (ICF), has funded 52 FLEGT VPA-related projects in the country to a total of $2.8 million. These have included mapping of forest chain actors; stakeholder consultations on timber trade legality; work on the development of the country’s timber legality assurance system (SALH); and studies on VPA impacts on livelihoods and land tenure. The programme has also provided support for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises through the VPA process and communications to raise the profile of FLEGT in the country.
FAO says that the country’s progress through the Agreement has been characterised by broad stakeholder engagement. Among those involved have been indigenous and Afro-descendant representatives, agroforestry community and other civil society organisations, the private sector and government bodies. According to the EFI FLEGT facility, Honduras was the first country to engage indigenous peoples as a distinct stakeholder group on its national VPA negotiation committee.
“By complying with the FLEGT VPA, Honduras will also contribute to the UN 2030 sustainable development agenda, especially in managing forests, halting deforestation, and protecting national flora and fauna,” said FAO. In its official statement on the ratification, the FAO said Honduras’s VPA laid stress on the human rights of stakeholders, including workers in the forest sector, as well as forestry, environmental and fiscal matters.
The EFI FLEGT Facility states that Honduras’s forest covers 5.4 million ha, just under half its land area. Since 2015 an estimated 12.5% of forest has been lost due to a combination of factors, including illegal logging, destruction by insect pests and conversion to agroforestry and agriculture.
According to the FLEGT IMM Data Dashboard, which uses statistics from the Sustainable Timber Information Exchange (STIX), Honduras’s timber and wood exports to the EU and UK fell from €1.695 million in 2018, to €1.202 million in 2019 , then rose to €1.46 million in 2020. The biggest overseas market for its timber sector is the US, with exports rising from €40.8 million in 2018, to €41.15 million in 2019, before falling to €32.3 million in 2020.