SUMMARY AND KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
FPP finds that key positive aspects and impacts of the 2003 EU FLEGT Action Plan include, inter alia:
- Application of participatory approaches to forest governance and inclusive processes for timber trade agreements that involve civil society organisations, indigenous peoples and the private sector
- Scope for legal and policy reforms to tackle illegal logging as part of the FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process, which has supported progressive legal reform in some (but not all) VPA countries
- Improved transparency in forest policy discussions in VPA countries and increased capacity of national civil society organisations to engage in national dialogues on forest governance and legality compliance issues.
- Development of useful frameworks and approaches for independent forest monitoring (IFM)
- Progress in public procurement and private sector due diligence standards.
Key gaps and deficiencies in the contents of the Plan and its implementation include:
- Little attention to international norms and obligations on human rights and governance of land tenure
- No systematic recognition of the legal rights of indigenous peoples and forest communities
- Inadequate links with relevant EU policies and commitments on indigenous peoples
- Inadequate recognition of the positive linkages between secure community tenure rights, legal trade, good governance and the sustainable management of forests
- Narrow approaches to legality, which are invariably limited to selected national laws to the exclusion of other key national laws (including constitutional provisions and customary laws) and international laws
- Inconsistent approaches to legality: a lack of complementarity between the approach to legality in VPAs and the EU Timber Regulation, which would allow illegal timber to be ‘laundered’ into the EU market by virtue of a FLEGT VPA license being granted on the basis of compliance with some, but not all, applicable laws
- VPA development and implementation that does not fully respect community land rights
- Slow implementation of VPA reforms and lack of transparency in legal review processes (e.g. Cameroon)
- Limited scope to tackle illegal deforestation and forest clearance for commercial agriculture
- Mismatch with new global standards and initiatives applicable to good forest governance and sustainable supply chains, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure (VGGT), the New York Declaration on Forests and the CBD Action Plan on Customary Sustainable Use (among others).
It is concluded that the Action Plan has established a progressive model for participatory forest governance and has achieved inclusive processes for the regulation of international trade in tropical timber. It is recommended that the EU consolidate these important gains while addressing current gaps by updating the EU Action Plan to apply legality standards that encompass all national, international and customary laws and enable targeted EU support for land reform in support of community tenure rights. A future Action Plan should ensure coherence with wider EU policies on human rights, indigenous peoples and land governance as well as EU commitments to halt global deforestation. To this end, the scope of the Action Plan should be expanded to include commitments and measures to tackle illegal trade in non-timber forest risk commodities, including palm oil, beef, soy, rubber, sugar, biofuels, paper and pulp.