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FAO-EU FLEGT Programme

Strengthening legal frameworks to fight illegal logging


From 14-15 May 2019, FAO convened a technical working group meeting of experts from international organizations, research institutions, academia, civil society and private sector who met to exchange and provide feedback on an intial set on guiding legal elements.

“The primary objective of the guiding legal elements is to support countries to reinforce their legal frameworks and improve understanding and enforcement of forest management, timber production and trade practices”, said FAO’s Blaise Kuemlangan, Chief of the Development Law Service of the Legal Office.

To date, there is no universally agreed definition of legal or illegal timber in international law. In general, timber is considered illegal when the timber producer breaches the laws and regulations of the country where the timber was harvested, or an international convention to which that country is party. The legislation impacting timber production varies considerably from country to country, as do approaches for verifying compliance. Many timber-producing countries have made considerable strides to identify and clarify the legislation, which governs their respective forest sectors. However, there are no agreed common elements which national legislation could address in order to create a comprehensive framework for timber legality. Such guidance would be a significant support for organizing and understanding current legal frameworks, and serve as a foundation for possible future national reviews or revision.

A first step is therefore the identification of the current sectoral laws and regulations on the basis of which compliance officers perform legality checks. The development of an agreed set of guiding legal elements will provide a common understanding of what sectoral laws and regulations could form part of a potential future legality review by national entities.  

“The meeting allowed experts to provide feedback on the first proposal of guiding legal elements to ensure they are sound and practical, and that they effectively address the needs of the various actors engaged in timber production and trade” said FAO’s forestry officer Daphne Hewitt.

The guiding legal elements will be the backbone of Timber-Lex, an online FAO database that catalogues  forest-related legislation for timber trading countries and ensures neutral access to information for all stakeholders.  Following the meeting in Rome, the revised draft of the guiding legal elements will be shared with the broader community in a public online discussion, and presented as part of the official launch of Timber-Lex.