The global relevance of the FLEGT process

Interview with Robert Simpson*

Q: What is the global relevance of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) process?

Robert Simpson: Legal tropical timber products have become unequivocal consumer demands the world over. The FLEGT process is largely about meeting this demand by improving the supply of legal timber. The FLEGT process also represents a significant breakthrough in the global battle to protect diminishing forest resources in that it marks an unprecedented collaboration between producing and consuming countries – in this case the European Union – to tackle the illegal timber trade. But it is not just the European Union (EU) taking steps to this end through the FLEGT process and its corresponding EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).

A number of countries around the world, including the United States, Australia and Japan, for example, are all clamping down on the illegal timber trade through their Lacey Act Amendment, Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill and Green Purchasing Law. Why does this make FLEGT relevant globally? FLEGT reflects a global shift in consumer mentality across the globe. If this trend in consumer mentality continues, failure to demonstrate legality and improve governance in the forest sector will increasingly limit access to markets in the years to come.

Q: How does the EU FAO FLEGT Programme support stakeholders to comply with this emerging legislation?

Robert Simpson: The EU FAO FLEGT Programme works with stakeholders to help them adhere to both emerging but also existing local and international legislation by supporting efforts to improve governance and legality. The Programme is demand-driven: governments, private sector organizations and civil society approach us to provide assistance in addressing needs that they define locally. This means the support we offer varies depending on country and context. There is no “one-size fits all” paradigm for all stakeholders.However, all approaches have common aims: improving legality, forest governance and in turn facilitating access to markets, with the hope of providing long-term social, economic and environmental benefits to tropical timber-producing countries.

Q: What should stakeholders expect to gain from involvement in the FLEGT process in the years to come?

Robert Simpson: Global market demand for more socially and environmentally benign products shows no sign of abating. What’s more, recent financial crises coupled with growing alarm over climatic change have placed increased emphasis on building a green economy. The FLEGT/VPA processes assure the legal, environmental and social credentials of timber, all of which are essential to ensure that forests maintain their value in the global market place and maintain incentives for intact, productive forests in the long term.

This is ultimately the objective of industry and serves the needs of all stakeholders. Improving governance today is also a promise to preserve vital forest resources so that future generations can continue to reap benefits and opportunities from these resources for their lives and livelihoods years from now.

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*Manager, EU FAO FLEGT Programme

Robert Simpson is the Manager of the EU FAO FLEGT Programme, seated in FAO’s Forest Economics, Policy and Products Division. He previously managed its predecessor, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries FLEGT Support Programme. Prior to joining FAO, Mr. Simpson worked for the United States Embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar and later for a conservation and forest management NGO in the country, working primarily with the Malagasy government to improve forest management strategies and law enforcement in several of its regional offices. Mr. Simpson also worked for the United States Forest Service from September of 2004 to June of 2008 as the Liberia Forest Initiative Program Coordinator, a program designed to support the Liberian Government forest sector reform process after the UN Security Council-imposed sanctions.

Mr. Simpson holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Developmental Economics (1993) from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Science in Forest Economics and Rural Development (2001). The MSc degree was part of a joint program with the United States Peace Corps; thesis work was completed during the three years Mr. Simpson served as a volunteer in Madagascar.

last updated:  Thursday, October 10, 2013