Communities Rights Network
Representatives from 12 VPA countries will be in Brussels from 11 April to discuss how to improve forest governance and strengthen communities’ rights through using the FLEGT VPA process. They’ll be taking part in the Communities Rights Network (CRN) meeting from 11 to 15 April; the gathering has happened every two years since 2008. This year, around 20 CRN participants will share their experiences of the VPA process, discuss common strategies, come to a position on the possible future of the FLEGT VPA process, and communicate their position directly to the European Commission.
Around 100 organisations, including Fern, have called on the European Commission to carry out a review of the “largely broken” European food and farming system. They contend that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is ill equipped to address the fundamental challenges Europe is facing in this sector. The EU is the world’s biggest importer of food and agricultural products and its meat and dairy industries are heavily dependent on protein-rich feed imports. Not only are these imports responsible for widespread deforestation, they also often lead to forced evictions and displacement of small-scale farmers and indigenous people, loss of employment, loss of biodiversity and increased food insecurity. Fern and others want the CAP to take greater account of the devastating impact Europe’s policies and practices have on forests and forest communities around the world.
VPAs and the SDGs
Negotiating and implementing a Voluntary Partnership Agreement can help countries achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), argues the European Forestry Institute’s EU FLEGT Facility in a new factsheet, VPAs for SDGs. The paper argues that VPAs reach far beyond the timber trade, strengthening a country’s legal and regulatory framework, increasing accountability and transparency, improving business practice and building capacity of all stakeholders. Thus VPAs specifically contribute to SDGs 8 (inclusive and sustainable economic growth); 12 (sustainable consumption and production patterns); 15 (sustainable forest management and halting biodiversity loss); and 16 (just, peaceful and inclusive societies). No small feat.
Cameroon's finance law
As Cameroon’s 2016 Finance Law failed to provide any benefits for communities (FW212), the campaign launched last year by Cameroonian civil society to restore local communities’ 10 per cent share of annual forest royalties (RFA) continues. “Ombres et lumières sur le partage des revenus forestiers au Cameroun,” (Shadow and light on sharing forest revenues in Cameroon) a new documentary by Fern’s partner FODER (Forests and Rural Development) bears witness to the impact of the RFA suspension on affected communities. CSOs urge the adoption of a just 2017 Finance Law in line with the VPA by the end of the year, reinstating the lost 10 per cent to communities. A coalition of NGOs led by FODER and traditional leaders continues to collect signatures nationally and internationally either here or here.
Land transparency in Scotland
Transparency and determining land rights can be problematic not only in tropical forest countries, but also in the UK. On 16 March, Global Witness reported that the Scottish Government had introduced groundbreaking new measures to bring land ownership into the open. Knowing who is really behind land ownership will make it easier to hold those persons to account. Almost half of all Scotland’s private lands are held by only a small number of landowners – some of them shell companies located in ‘secrecy’ jurisdictions. As a result, decisions about land use and its benefits were difficult to investigate or challenge, and corrupt landlords could exploit tenants more easily. A to-be-created public register of actual landowners in Scotland promises to dispel the secrecy and allow renters to know whom to hold accountable.