Vietnam’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU) is designed to end the illegal timber trade by tackling its root causes. At its heart is a commitment to adopt a robust timber legality assurance system, in order to verify that wood products which are sold are legal under Vietnam’s national law. Once verified as legal, partner countries can give FLEGT licences to timber products destined for the EU market
On July 6th 2019 in Da Nang, the Multi-stakeholder Core Group Meeting (CGM), which consists of representatives from civil society organisations (CSOs), the private sector, research institutes and development partners, gathered for their sixth meeting. The Group provides a forum to discuss the implementation of the VPA, and to propose issues for the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) to consider. The main aim of this CGM was to discuss the second draft of the Decree promoting Vietnam’s Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS), which was issued last May.
The meeting was co-chaired by Dr. Pham Van Dien, Deputy Director General of VNFOREST, the Vietnam Administration of Forestry, and Mr. Ngo Si Hoai, Vice-Secretary General of the Vietnam Timber and Forest Product Association (VIFORES). Participants included several departments of VNForest (CITES Office, Legal Department, the Department of Science and Technology and International Cooperation), but also national and provincial timber associations, academia and CSOs. The objective of the meeting was to obtain comments and perspectives from different stakeholders on VNTLAS’s draft Decree No2.
Many participants provided comments, including representatives from the VNGO-FLEGT network, research institutes and development centers. The majority of participants explicitly stated that the draft Decree should be supplemented and modified to reflect the following points:
- The scope of the Decree should cover all components of the timber supply chain (from production to trade).
- The objects of the Decree should be individuals and organisations involved in all components of the supply chain, not only export and import companies.
- The Decree should also cover timber trade on the domestic market.
- FLEGT licensing should not fall under the responsibility of the CITES licensing agency because they have limited capacity.
- The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development has the lead on developing the FLEGT licensing system and appointing the independent evaluator, which affects the credibility of the system. The independent evaluator should be appointed by the Core group with concrete clear and detailed criteria.
- The monitoring and evaluation framework of the VPA Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework is not detailed in the draft Decree.
- The role of CSOs in the VPA’s M&E is not mentioned at all in the draft Decree.
- Monitoring the development and implementation of the FLEGT licensing system should be detailed in the Decree.
- The relationship between the timber legality assurance system of Vietnam and other forest certification schemes such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) should be addressed in this Decree.
Relevant stakeholders are invited to provide their written contribution to the consultation on the VNTLAS decree to VNForest by the 31st of August. The VNGO FLEGT network has engaged with its members to provide a joint response. The Government of Vietnam is expected to finalise the VNTLAS decree before the end of 2019.