Indonesia appears set to issue the world’s first FLEGT licences, although important challenges remain.
On 21 April, the country’s President, Joko Widodo, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk announced that Indonesia was on track to issue a Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) license, which gives a green light to trade in legally-produced timber products from Indonesia to the EU.
Almost a decade ago, Indonesia and the EU began discussing illegal logging and forest governance, adopting a legally-binding trade agreement – a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) – that entered into force in 2014.
Today, more than 90 per cent of Indonesian timber exports come from independently audited factories and forests.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) played a significant role in the advance toward the FLEGT license: they successfully pressured Indonesia’s government to rescind a decree that exempted certain timber products from the legality verification system, and which had held up progress.
Yet other challenges must be addressed if the EU-Indonesia VPA is to be effective:
The VPA must be fully implemented, meaning that conversion timber (wood sourced from areas converted into plantations or for other purposes) must be verified under the Indonesian Timber Legality Verification system, developed through the VPA.
Access to information for independent forest monitors remains difficult; civil society organisations had to take the Government to Court in order to consult key documents, and they still do not have guaranteed access to information. Also, forest monitoring continues to be dangerous work in Indonesia and the security of independent forest monitors must be ensured.
Image: EU FLEGT facility