Indonesia to issue first license certifying legal timber entering Europe

FAO-supported initiative combats illegal logging and boosts sustainable livelihoods

15 September 2016, Rome - FAO today welcomed an agreement by Indonesia and the European Union (EU) to issue the world's first Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) timber license as a major achievement in the fight against illegal logging. 

As of 15 November, the FLEGT license can accompany shipments of timber exported from Indonesia to EU member states to certify that the timber has been harvested, transported, processed and traded according to Indonesian law.

"Indonesia has taken important steps to strengthen forest governance, combat illegal logging, modernize its forest sector, and improve business practices," said Robert Simpson of FAO's FLEGT Programme, which supports tropical timber-producing countries engaged in FLEGT initiatives.

"In addition to helping to limit the environmental damage caused by illegal logging, demonstrating timber legality opens the door to promoting the sustainable livelihoods of forest communities and increasing access to international wood markets," he said. 

Indonesia supplies one third of tropical timber imports by value to the EU, one of the world's largest consumers of timber products. Since 2013, the EU Timber Regulation has prohibited European companies from placing illegal timber and timber products on the EU market.

FLEGT licensed timber automatically complies with the requirements of the timber regulation, creating a "green lane" for Indonesian timber entering the EU.

Worldwide, forest crime is estimated by UNEP and Interpol to be worth $30-100 billion annually, or 10-30 percent of the total global timber trade.

"Illegal logging and associated trade undermine countries' efforts to manage forests sustainably, lead to forest degradation and contribute to climate change and biodiversity loss," said Simpson. "They also rob developing nations of revenue and can fuel cycles of corruption, poverty and conflict."

FAO and the EU FLEGT Action Plan

The licensing scheme is part of the EU's FLEGT Action Plan, adopted in 2003 to promote concrete measures to stem the illegal timber trade and contribute to sustainable forest management, now one of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

FAO is working with the EU, its member states and other international and local partners to help tropical timber-producing countries make legally binding trade agreements with the EU. These agreements, known as Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs), establish mechanisms to demonstrate legality of timber produced in the country.

Governments negotiate with the EU in close consultation with civil society, indigenous peoples and the private sector.

The cornerstone of the VPA is a timber legality assurance system that defines legal timber and how it should be verified. Once fully operational, FLEGT licensing can begin for consignments of timber exported to Europe. The system is audited on a regular basis to guarantee its credibility.

In Indonesia, FAO continues to support the process by providing financial and technical assistance for projects to strengthen the development and implementation of the national timber legality assurance system. This includes supporting the certification of community forests in East Kalimantan, and promoting group certification of furniture makers in Java and Bali.

FAO is also assisting efforts to empower an independent forest monitoring network to prevent corruption in the forest sector - the biggest threat to the integrity of VPAs.

Other countries on board

In addition to Indonesia, five other countries - Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Liberia, and the Republic of Congo - have signed Voluntary Partnership Agreements with the EU and are working towards FLEGT licensing.

A further nine countries - Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guyana, Honduras, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Thailand and Viet Nam - are negotiating VPAs.

Together, these 15 countries cover 24% of the world's tropical forests and supply up to 75% of the EU's tropical timber imports.

To date, FAO's FLEGT Programme has supported over 200 projects in 40 countries throughout Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia to improve forest governance and promote the legal timber trade.

A new USD $30 million phase of the programme, which is sponsored by the EU, the United Kingdom and Sweden, was launched earlier this year. 

The new agreement ensures that only legal timber from Indonesia is allowed access to the EU market. A worker checking for identity tags on logged trees in Berau, East Kalimantan, Indonesia.