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The newest FLEGT agreement signed! Celebrating the EU-Côte d’Ivoire forest agreement

6 März 2024

Written by: Tyala Ifwanga

The newest FLEGT agreement signed! Celebrating the EU-Côte d’Ivoire forest agreement

On 19 February 2024, the European Commission and Côte d’Ivoire signed their Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), a major step on the way to sustainable, legal forestry. 

This milestone marks more than 10 years of multistakeholder negotiation and technical preparation to promote the trade of legal timber between Côte d’Ivoire and the EU, a long and arduous process that has been saluted as a model of multistakeholder participation.

Indeed, civil society organisations, private sector representatives and traditional chiefs have consistently been included in VPA discussions, a practice that has proved a great advantage in the implementation of many forestry reforms over past years. These steady efforts are now being rewarded through the signature of the legally binding trade agreement, which intends to ensure that all timber and timber products destined for the EU market from Côte d’Ivoire comply with Ivorian laws, but also that the forestry sector contributes to the social, environmental and economic development of the country.

More challenges remain, naturally, as the transformation that FLEGT VPAs drive is vast, going beyond trade to include transparency, land rights reform and civil society participation, among other things. Efforts around practical implementation will now intensify, and experience shows that the path to delivering FLEGT licences is seldom direct. Moreover, many questions arise concerning the VPAs’ interface with the fast-approaching entry into force of the EU Regulation on deforestation-free products (EUDR) that will regulate the import of seven commodities, including timber, as of December 2024. Fern explores the possibilities for creating synergies in order to reinforce both instruments in its new briefing, “What impact will the EUDR have on VPAs and FLEGT Licensing?” 

The incoming, stricter EUDR has led many to doubt the relevance of the FLEGT VPA, but Bakary Traoré, director of the Ivorian NGO Initiative pour le développement communautaire et la conservation de la forêt (IDEF) and long-time participant in the VPA process, explains:

“No, the EUDR does not render FLEGT totally obsolete. Admittedly, it is diminished because it is mentioned only as an element that ‘complements’ the EUDR in ‘specific cases’. In practice, however, I remain convinced that, for the moment, no technical tools on a par with FLEGT are available to the competent European authorities to prove the legality of timber in the context of due diligence. And it is a relevant tool that would do the trick. Provided we maintain the negotiation phase’s momentum.” 

So, amidst the celebrations, stakeholders must keep their eyes – and efforts – on the prize: 2024 will be a critical time to improve forest governance, independent forest monitoring and law enforcement. With this trade agreement, Côte d’Ivoire is committing to improving forest governance, modernising its forestry sector, and addressing illegal logging and trade – high ambitions, that will only bear fruit if synergies are created between the VPA and other policy processes, such as the EUDR.

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Kategorien: News, Forest Watch

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