The European Commission has proposed a Regulation on deforestation-free products, with the aim of curbing harm done by EU consumption and the production of commodities and products, including timber. But it is still unclear how the Regulation will interact with existing instruments such as Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) and its Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs).
There is broad consensus that despite the challenges, VPAs have improved sustainable forest management and forest conditions, governance, and local communities’ rights. They also provide lessons learned that could be applied to future partnerships with producer countries to tackle commodity driven deforestation. For this reason, it is critical that the FLEGT Regulation, together with the VPAs that underpin it, are strengthened.
This discussion document gathers the views and perspectives of timber-producing country stakeholders on the EU’s policies to protect tropical forests and forest communities. It highlights potential innovations and revisions to the VPA model, and options to ensure its full integration into and contribution towards global action against deforestation.
It ends with several principals to consider going forward, including:
- The importance of maintaining the EU’s standing as a trusted international partner.
- Existing VPA processes can help producer countries comply with both the ‘legal’, and the ‘sustainable’ requirement in the new Regulation on deforestation-free products.
- Forest dialogues without incentives are likely to have limited impact.
- Effective processes must be domestically owned and need to work for each national context.
- Legally binding agreements give the EU the legitimacy to weigh-in on national processes.