FAO-EU FLEGT Programme

Myanmar commits to address gaps in timber legality assurance system for improved forest governance


The Government of Myanmar has committed to improving the country’s timber legality assurance system following the release of a report that analyzed the “gaps” in the system in the context of internationally recognized principles, requirements and best practices. 

The Myanmar Forest Certification Committee (MFCC) commissioned the gap analysis report in early 2016, with technical support from the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Myanmar first developed its Timber Legality Assurance System (MTLAS) in response to efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to establish standardized regional criteria for timber legality, furthering ASEAN’s efforts to create an integrated regional economy. Since Myanmar entered the preparation phase for a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU) in 2015, the focus has returned to improving the MTLAS to provide robust assurance that wood exported to the EU comes from legal sources. 

The results of the MTLAS Gap Analysis report were shared at a consultative workshop with 150 national and international stakeholders in Yangon in February 2017. Although the MTLAS is based on the current national legal framework and a well-established government verification system, the report recommends a number of key improvements.

Key MTLAS Gap Analysis recommendations include:

  • All possible sources of timber need to be covered, widening the MTLAS’s current scope;
  • Legality requirements at the forest level need to be better defined;
  • Internal checks and external third party verification at the forest level and along the supply chain need to be strengthened;
  • Measures to increase transparency and address unethical conduct need to be defined and implemented;
  • Mechanisms for overall MTLAS monitoring and oversight need to be incorporated into the system; and
  • MTLAS systems, processes, procedures and data need to be documented and made publically available.

Forest Department Director U Kyaw Zaw was enthusiastic about the results of the gap analysis, noting they would help “strengthen our system to be recognized by the international market and to fulfill some criteria of sustainable forest management.”

MFCC mentioned it “would try its best to make the MTLAS into a reputable and internationally accepted timber legality assurance system.”

Bruno Cammaert of the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme highlighted "the fact that Myanmar agreed to a transparent and participatory review of its system against international best practices is a testament to its willingness to engage in forest sector reform.”

The results of the gap analysis comes on the heels of a recent Swedish court decision confirming that an importer’s reliance on information currently provided by the Myanmar Forest Products Merchants’ Federation is insufficient to demonstrate compliance with the due diligence requirement of the European Union Timber Regulation. This ruling sets a precedent and is affecting Myanmar timber imports into Europe.

The Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) indicated in a statement that it would take immediate action to facilitate access to documentation needed by European operators to assess legality and traceability. It also recognized the need to further improve stakeholder engagement to strengthen the MTLAS.

The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme is a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources to further the goals of the FLEGT Action Plan globally. The Programme is funded by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom.

Photo: FAO/Bruno Cammaert