AS Asia’s first-ever Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) was today (09.00 GMT, May 4) formally agreed in Jakarta by senior representatives of the European Union and Government of Indonesia, it was warned the historic timber trade agreement would only succeed alongside rigorous efforts to stamp out corruption.
Once the VPA is operational, Indonesia will only allow the export of timber licensed from a national timber legality assurance system, and EU Customs authorities will prevent any unlicensed Indonesian products from entering the EU.
For more than a decade, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and its Indonesia partner Telapak have been at the forefront of efforts to combat the devastation of Indonesia’s forests by illegal logging, exposing the criminals involved, lobbying for legislative change and building the capacity of Indonesian civil society.
Faith Doherty, Team Leader of EIA’s Forest Campaign, hailed the VPA as a huge blow to the timber barons by stemming the flow of illegal timber to European markets but cautioned: “The core issue at the heart of illegal logging and the illegal trade has always been corruption, and credible transparency is the key to this VPA’s success.
“The VPA stipulates transparency of laws and access to information, something not previously been allowed. Even though the agreement is now with us, a major challenge lies ahead in keeping it free from corruption and ensuring that the Government of Indonesia implements it properly and with robust transparency.”
The VPA will be subject to independent monitoring and verification and, for the first time, Indonesian civil society will be a formal part of the system.
“It is the first time a true stakeholder process has happened within the forestry sector of Indonesia,” said Mardi Minangsari, Senior Forest Programme Coordinator at Telapak.
“It has been a long, arduous and often dangerous journey to reach this point, but everyone, from civil society and indigenous people to industry and the Government of Indonesia, have had a say in this VPA; this process shows it can be done, and should be done for other issues.”
The VPA is a key plank of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative seeking to establish systems to halt the sale of illegal timber products to the EU and address forest governance issues.
In future, all timber production in Indonesia will be subjected to a national timber legality assurance system known as the Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu (SVLK), which means independent auditing by ISO-accredited auditors against a multi-stakeholder legality standard.