FAO-EU FLEGT Programme

Meeting in Brussels assesses progress made in the effort to slow deforestation and stop illegal logging


More than 200 representatives from timber producer and consumer countries, private sector and civil society, indigenous communities, as well as from the European Union (EU) Member States and Delegates, the European Commission and international organizations attended a conference organized by the European Commission dedicated to the problems of deforestation and illegal logging that took place in Brussels from 21 to 23 June.

The aim of the first part of the conference, which focused specifically on illegal logging and FLEGT, was to present key recommendations from the EU FLEGT Action Plan’s evaluation, to update and discuss the draft FLEGT work plan for 2017–2020, to discuss experiences and lessons learned in implementing the Action Plan and to identify ways to strengthen results and intensify their effect.

The Manager of the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme Robert Simpson moderated one of three parallel sessions entitled “Working in partnership with timber producing countries”. Mr. Simpson emphasized the importance of engaging in dialogue with countries supplying timber. “We have to understand that supply-side countries are continually trying to adapt to constantly changing circumstances. A strong policy and technical level partnerships can increase the capacity to address emerging challenges,” he said. Representatives from Indonesia, Columbia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo discussed the reality of negotiating a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), issuing FLEGT licences and working with FLEGT support.

At the same time, there was a session entitled “The Private Sector: Deepening its contribution to the attainment of the FLEGT objectives” and another called “Demand side measures (EU Timber Regulation, bilateral cooperation with other importer and producer countries)”.
At the end of the illegal logging section of the conference, Roberto Ridolfi, the Director for Sustainable Growth and Development at DG Development and Cooperation summarized the key points:

  • It is important to recognize the value of FLEGT and ensuring that FLEGT works.
  • The success of FLEGT is not only related to licences.
  • FLEGT contributes to creating political and technical partnerships on forest governance, not just simple project engagement. It creates partnerships between the EU and partner countries, and also between stakeholders in partner countries.
  • There are some questions on how to reinforce VPAs, while at the same time being flexible and realistic about addressing different situations and blockages.
  • The European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) is a central element of FLEGT. It has to be seen as one with the VPAs and with bilateral cooperation with countries such as China. But we need to work on improved clarity, especially since the EUTR is beginning to change the behaviour of operators for the better. This applies both to imported and to domestic timber.
  • Advocating EUTR-type approaches with other global players such as China and others is essential to amplifying the impact of FLEGT beyond the limited EU market.
  • It is difficult to make progress on any FLEGT action area when resources are uncertain. EU and partner countries have to pay stronger attention to this.
  • Transparency is crucial to improving credibility and ensuring trust. The private sector is affected by poor transparency in the forest sector. The private sector, not only NGOs, want improvements on transparency.
  • The synergies between certification and VPAs are increasingly recognized and should be further developed.
  • There is a need for innovative financial engineering to allow the forest sector to attract large scale investment.
  • The informality of small and medium enterprises is a large scale problem, and requires specific support.

The latter part of the conference, dedicated to deforestation, aimed to present issues regarding deforestation and forest degradation globally, to discuss existing initiatives from governments, private sector and civil society organizations to address deforestation, and to exchange ideas on how the European Union can take further action.

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