This review of existing and draft VPAs, carried out by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) finds that, across the board, VPAs do not require the incorporation of human rights laws (and more specifically, laws governing the fundamental question of community tenure in forest areas). Similarly, while there have been positive developments on the ground in some countries (in particular Ghana and Liberia and, to some extent, the Republic of Congo), in other countries it seems that to date the VPAs have had only a limited role in encouraging or actually prompting pro-human rights reforms as part of the harmonisation and rationalisation of forestry sector laws.
This is symptomatic of a problem across the forestry industry and conservation sector of the failure properly to integrate and account for human rights impacts in forest governance and, in particular, the critical underlying issue of local peoples’ security of tenure. The result is that, in at least some countries, the FLEGT process in its current form risks lending legitimacy to existing (or new) property law and forestry governance regimes which dispossess indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities to the benefit of business enterprises and (sometimes) national governments, and in violation of human rights law.
At the same time, and again with some exceptions, the VPA certification systems tend towards bureaucratic, highly-technical and top-down verification processes, which can serve to facilitate corruption and do not support local participation or accountability. While in some cases independent civil society monitoring may be able to collect some community feedback and unearth some irregularities, this is no substitute for systematic community-level input to and checks on the verification process, which equally requires clear community rights to access information.