The independent review of the EU’s flagship forest policy – the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan – was released by the European Commission on 4 May, with Fern highlighting the positive impact it has had on forest governance and calling for it to serve as a catalyst to intensify efforts to tackle illegal logging and deforestation.
The review highlighted FLEGT’s successes, calling it “fully relevant … innovative, comprehensive and future-proof”, while also stressing the need to “address new challenges, in particular with regard to deforestation and forest conversion.”
In a blog, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said he was “proud of this ground-breaking scheme”.
“FLEGT is at the forefront of the fight against illegal logging. Of course, there is much more work to be done, but as the evaluation and experiences on the ground show, FLEGT is on the right track,” he concluded.
Fern welcomed the review, including its urgent call to address the problem of conversion timber – trees that have been felled to make way for agriculture or mining – which now constitutes almost half the tropical timber on the international market.
Of the many attempts to tackle the scourge of illegal logging, Fern believes that FLEGT has been the most ambitious and effective; it acts as a lever to address the root causes of forest destruction: corruption, power imbalances and unjust or unclear land tenure rights.
Launched in 2003, FLEGT aspires not only to stop illegal timber entering the EU market, but to change how tropical forests are owned and managed. FLEGT uses trade deals, in the form of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with timber-producing countries, as leverage to include civil society and forest communities in decisions affecting forests.
Fern works with partners in nine timber-producing countries with which the EU has signed or is negotiating a FLEGT VPA. It published research to coincide with the FLEGT review which showed that these trade deals have led to significant improvements in the governance of forests in these countries, and in allowing forest communities a greater say in what happens to their ancestral lands.
Negotiating trade deals is a long, convoluted process and a great deal has been achieved in the past 13 years. Any scaling back of ambition or resources could be disastrous. Fern Forest Governance campaigner Lindsay Duffield has written a blog about the need to grasp this opportunity to strengthen FLEGT.