Development Law Service Newsletter - May 2016 - #2


Strengthening FLEGT and REDD+: Synergies in Côte d’Ivoire 

Much like the rest of West Africa, Côte d'Ivoire has suffered severe deforestation over the past several decades, primarily due to unplanned expansion of agricultural activities, uncontrolled fires and logging for tropical wood. As a result, the country’s forest cover has shrunk from 12 million hectares in 1960 to 2.5 million hectares today. Because of the severe loss and degradation of forest resources and thanks to its determination to protect its natural resources, Côte d’Ivoire is currently participating in two of the main global initiatives for improving forest governance: the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) part of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan and the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative.  

FLEGT is an EU initiative responding to global concerns about the negative impacts of illegal logging and related timber trade. Under this framework, the EU and timber-exporting countries negotiate VPAs, which are bilateral trade agreements focusing on the legal harvesting and trade of timber. In Côte d’Ivoire, the National Coordination of the VPA process is hosted within the Ministry of Water and Forestry. Under the initiative, financial and technical support is provided to timber-producing countries.

REDD+ is a multilateral process framed by the international climate change negotiations addressing all drivers of deforestation, both inside and outside the forest sector. Under the initiative, countries receive payments for verified emissions reductions. The UN-REDD Programme - comprising FAO, UNDP and UNEP – assists partner countries through the provision of technical expertise to meet the REDD+ requirements. The REDD+ process in Côte d’Ivoire is led by the National REDD+ Commission (CN-REDD+) within the Ministry of Environment, Urban Health and Sustainable Development.

Despite these different foundations and the different lead ministries – which have often meant they run independently from each other – the two initiatives share the objectives of improving forest sector governance and forest management, potentially positively impacting upon livelihoods and alleviating poverty. Both address the legal, regulatory and institutional measures necessary to achieve these objectives. They also share many challenges on issues such as land tenure and customary rights.

The potential synergies between the initiatives are, it is considered, quite clear. For example, operationally, both have a strong focus on stakeholder engagement. In particular FLEGT, because of its design, has a very effective stakeholder engagement process in the context of legislative review. REDD+ could build and draw upon the stakeholder consultation mechanisms already developed under FLEGT.

The development of the ”VPA legality definition” is an excellent opportunity for potential synergy in the context of process. The legality definition is a requirement under each VPA. Timber and timber products that comply with it are considered eligible for FLEGT licences and may enter the EU market. The legality definition identifies the legislative requirements of the exporting country that must be systematically fulfilled (and verified) to ensure legal compliance of timber and timber products with the VPA. A multi-stakeholder process is used to develop the legality definition and, during this process, gaps, inconsistencies and overlaps in legislation may be identified that warrant legislative reform. From the perspective of process, efficiencies could be gained by addressing both the requirements of REDD+ and FLEGT in the same multi-stakeholder process.

From a substantive legal perspective, coordination of work under the two initiatives would certainly add value to the development of new laws, ensuring consideration of multi-dimensional and cross-sectoral aspects. Laws and regulations reviewed and developed under FLEGT address many issues of relevance to REDD+, and vice versa. New legislation and regulations could, therefore, be developed with the objectives of both initiatives in mind, rather than separately. This approach could ensure consistency and avoid contradiction.

Recognizing this, and at the request of the Ivorian Ministry of Water and Forestry, LEGN and other FAO units participating in FLEGT and UN-REDD, have supported the creation of a multi-stakeholder Legal Working Group (LWG) at the national level. This includes civil society representatives from “the FLEGT/REDD+ Civil Society Platform” and legal experts from the lead ministries for the two initiatives. This LWG will serve as a “think tank” supporting the ongoing drafting of implementing decrees for the Côte d’Ivoire Forest Code, and addressing key challenges arising under both FLEGT and REDD+, such as tenure and users’ rights, benefit sharing, as well as procedural rights. LEGN hopes that future legislative work under the two initiatives could be similarly coordinated in other jurisdictions.

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