Deforestation Regulation: FLEGT gains must be preserved at all costs – FERN
The gains of the FLEGT programme must be preserved at all costs, says Christian Mounzéo of the Rencontre pour la paix et les droits de l'homme (RPDH) in the Republic of Congo.
Last November, when the European Commission published its draft regulation on zero deforestation products, Congolese civil society reacted first with surprise, then with concern.
Indeed, unlike the negotiations of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) for the implementation of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme, the draft was not developed in a multi-stakeholder process allowing the most affected parties to express their views.
There is also the question of what will happen to the FLEGT-VPAs, and whether all the efforts made in the process will be in vain.
Our recent visit to Brussels, together with other civil society organisations working on the VPA, gave us a better understanding of the EU's position and allowed us to voice our concerns and expectations.
According to the EU and Member State representatives we met during the many meetings, the FLEGT-VPAs will continue.
We have also learned that even at the European level there is no consensus on how this regulation will be implemented. We will therefore decide, once it is adopted, how we will react and on which aspects we will base our advocacy activities.
For the time being, however, there are still a number of critical issues to be resolved.
An open door
Ensuring the participation of indigenous communities and civil society organisations in the development of the zero deforestation law is fundamental. Synergy between the different actors - Europe, producer countries, the private sector, civil society organisations and forest communities - is necessary for the success of the regulation. As the FLEGT programme has shown, there are huge gains to be made when civil society and indigenous communities have a role to play in monitoring and enforcing forest protection laws.
Looking at the context and reality of countries such as ours where democracy is not well established, VPAs have opened up a space for dialogue. For the first time, civil society and community representatives were able to sit at the negotiating table, have their voices heard, and have their proposals taken into account.
This participation was a major step for us. It has even been a game changer: the FLEGT-VPAs have also paved the way for civil society participation and inclusion in other policy processes, such as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) and the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) programme.
Another key issue is how the regulation addresses the issue of illegal timber being transported to neighbouring countries and 'laundered' in order to access the European market.
Timber traceability can help us to address many other issues: it can help to root out corruption, ensure that communities and others receive the income they are due, and that timber is produced sustainably and legally.
Independent monitoring, whether mandated or not, remains an important tool and, under the FLEGT programme, has enabled civil society to participate, contribute and highlight many illegalities that other stakeholders do not raise (by omission or choice). It would therefore be appropriate for the new regulation to support independent monitoring.
Another outstanding issue is the impact the regulation will have on communities living in areas where timber is harvested. Currently, communities feel that they are the only ones who have to manage and cope with the negative impacts of logging.
The text of the draft regulation that has been voted on in the European Parliament proposes that licences issued under the FLEGT programme should be considered to comply with the legality requirements of the regulation, thus allowing legal timber to access the European market. This is excellent news. However, a question was raised during our visit to Brussels about the indirect and negative impact that the human rights clause could have on FLEGT-VPAs. A debate needs to be opened with the EU on this clause.
This thematic summary and Compendium serve to compile the discussions, recommendations and conclusions reached over 4 intensive days of work in thematic ateliers (Streams), plenary, side events and political discussions.
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Dear Panelists, dear Guests, You are invited to take part in the sharing and reflection workshop that IOM Cameroon and KAS are organizing on the theme: "Practical solutions to migration, security and climate change: Initiatives and commitments by civil society and the United Nations to address and resolve challenges". As part of the Second International Ministerial Conference on Transboundary Transhumance - Nexus.
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