In a workshop on 26 and 27 April the Technical Working Group of the Lao FLEGT process has elaborated a first draft Timber Legality Definition, in preparation for the first face to face FLEGT/VPA negotiations between Lao PDR and the European Union (EU), scheduled for the last quarter of 2016. The workshop, organised by the Department of Forest Inspection, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), brought together 50 key stakeholders from various government agencies, private sector and civil society organisations to agree on the first structure of the Timber Legality Definition with Principles, while providing a venue to further discuss the draft Timber Legality Definition of the Thematic Expert Group on Log Landing 1-3 in production forest.
“Having a concrete definition on what is legal timber is crucial for Laos as it acts as an ‘entry ticket’ to generate new export opportunities in the ASEAN Economic Community and other export markets, such as Europe, the U.S., China, ASEAN, Australia, Japan and South Korea, requesting legally verified timber”, said Mr. Manohack Rasachack, Director General of Department of Industry and Handicraft, Ministry of Industry and Commerce. “Once legal timber is defined, the next milestone is to enhance the competitiveness of the Lao timber industry through the improvement of the supply of raw materials, qualification of staff and workers in the wood processing industry, sector associations, and access to market and product information for each individual company”, he added.
A well-defined description of what legal timber is will generate advantages to a series of stakeholders, ranging from local communities to the private sector and related government agencies. Forest-dependent communities in Lao PDR will be able to maintain their livelihoods in a sustainable way as they will be able to exercise their rights to access resources in areas as allowed and managed by the government. Company owners, especially in timber processing, furniture and handicraft industries, will be able to plan their operations more effectively due to more regulated and sustainable supply of raw material.
“Definitions of legally-produced timber should incorporate laws applicable to not only a country’s forest sector, but also other relevant areas, namely industry and commerce, import and export”, commented by Mr. Heiko Woerner, senior international adviser to the German Development Cooperation’s project ‘Support to the Lao EU-FLEGT Process’ (ProFLEGT), implemented by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit). “Conducting wide consultations with all interested parties ensures that the different stakeholders such as local and indigenous communities, private sector, and the government jointly benefit from legal trade in wood products”, he expressed.
During the two-day meeting, participants also had a chance to discuss the scope of the FLEGT/VPA negotiation regarding product, market destination and timber sources, with the study results of the supply chain control and verification procedures in natural production forest presented.
As part of the Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) to combat illegal logging globally, the European Union (EU) is concluding Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) with timber producing countries. A VPA is an international trade agreement to reduce illegal wood harvesting and promote legal timber trade. The legal definition of timber forms an important component of Timber Legality Assurance Systems that are part of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs).
Laos has started to negotiate such an agreement with the EU, with assistance from the GIZ project Support to the Lao EU-FLEGT process (ProFLEGT).
ProFLEGT is a joint initiative of the Lao Government and the German Development Cooperation. It is working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (through the FLEGT Standing Office under the supervision of the Department of Forest Inspection, DOFI), Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, as well as other Government agencies, civil society organisations, academia and timber processing industry.
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