EIA and 40 other NGOs urge the EU to strengthen action on illegal logging and deforestation

EIA has joined with more than 40 global NGOs to call on the European Union (EU) to do more to halt illegal logging and commodity-driven deforestation elsewhere in the world.

The Raising the Bar statement comes ahead of a proposed new EU regulation on deforestation, expected in June, and amid concerns that the EU is looking to weaken key aspects of its flagship initiative to tackle illegal logging.

In 2003, the EU adopted an innovative strategy to tackle the root causes of illegal logging – the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, which combines a unique mix of demand-and-supply side measures.Under FLEGT, producer countries have invested time, energy and resources to clean up their forestry sectors and have achieved important successes in terms of addressing the underlying causes of illegal logging. This includes improving governance, securing community rights, legal reforms and better enforcement.

Papua, Indonesia (c) EIA

Indonesia has been a leader in this regard; in 2013, it became the first country to sign a legally binding trade agreement on illegal logging with the EU– known as a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) – and was the first to achieve FLEGT licensing in 2016, with the EU recognising the country’s timber legality system.

However, in February the EU suggested it may ditch FLEGT licensing due to a lack of evidence that VPAs had contributed to reduced illegal logging in partner countries.

This is despite studies telling a different story. Ten years ago, more than 80 per cent of the timber in Indonesia was thought to be illegal, compared to 30 per cent in 2015. Most recently, VPAs have been shown to have positively contributed to reducing illegal logging, ensuring local communities and indigenous peoples have a voice in decisions and providing better legal frameworks, among other impacts.The EU soon to propose a new regulation to address its role in commodity-driven deforestation and partnerships, with support for forested countries, will be vital in achieving this. Partnerships are needed to address the root causes of deforestation, support national processes and create systemic changes that will have long-lasting effects.

Oil palm plantation on deforested land in Papua, Indonesia

Oil palm plantation, Indonesia (c) EIA

This is why we and more than 40 NGOs are calling for the EU to strengthen its existing partnerships on illegal logging and look to enact new partnership approaches in the future, with three key recommendations:

  • use the FLEGT Fitness Check to strengthen the FLEGT Action Plan and the EU Timber Regulation and address the persistent obstacles hampering their effective implementation;
  • maintain the integrity of the VPAs and provide tailored support to VPA countries, ensuring civil society organisations, local communities and indigenous groups are able to participate;
  • develop ambitious, inclusive, and rights-based forest partnerships that respond to the partner countries’ needs.

Deforestation cannot be addressed by a single regulatory instrument set within the EU – to achieve clear results, partnerships with producing countries must be enacted to provide support and to respond to partner countries’ needs and priorities.