The EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) process has been remarkably effective in improving governance and combatting illegal logging in Indonesia and Ghana. This is the conclusion of an academic paper that takes a critical look at the bilateral Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) between the EU and the two countries closest to being able to issue FLEGT export licenses.
The scholars find that VPA implementation in both countries has resulted in significant improvements in forest governance, including empowerment of domestic NGOs, supply chain traceability, and increased potential for accountability and learning. The VPA process has also focused attention on protecting the needs and livelihoods of small producers in the transition to the new timber legality regime – in Ghana through the domestic market policy and in Indonesia through subsidised group certification.
A key strength of the VPAs, the paper argues, is the reciprocal relationship between the “experimentalist architecture of the FLEGT initiative and transnational civil society activism.” Backed by the EU, the VPAs’ insistence on stakeholder participation, independent monitoring and joint implementation, has empowered both countries’ domestic civil society groups. Local NGOs have made a crucial contribution to VPA effectiveness and legitimacy by exposing unfulfilled commitments, holding public authorities accountable, and working together to reach mutually acceptable solutions.