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The IMM 2017 survey serves as a baseline for EU trade perceptions of the Indonesian FLEGT-licensing system and day-to-day management of importing Licensed timber. Repetition of the same questions in 2018 and 2019 now allows for comparison over time. Chart 1 shows a sharp and constant rise of the proportion of respondents finding the administrative process of importing FLEGT-licensed timber easily understandable and manageable over the last three years. The number of respondents highlighting challenges continued to fall in 2019, after declining sharply in 2018.

The IMM 2017-2019 EU Trade Surveys recorded no significant changes in the overall level of awareness of the FLEGT VPA process (chart 1) among respondents over the last three years. The number of companies claiming to be “fully aware” of the process dropped by 17 percentage points in 2018, with some companies stating that they only realised that they had not fully understood the process after beginning to hear more about it. At the same time, the number of companies claiming to the be “totally unaware” of the process had risen as well. However, this was believed by IMM correspondents to have mainly been expressions of frustration with the duration of the process, which resurfaced in 2018, after initial euphoria over Indonesia achieving the Licensing stage in late 2016. In 2019, the number of “fully aware” companies increased again slightly, while the number of “totally unaware” companies fell. 

Ghana is currently still hoping to fully implement the last few milestones identified by the Final Joint Assessment of the Timber Legality Assurance System (GhLAS) in 2019 and start FLEGT-licensing this year. However, the COVID-19 lockdown and administrative difficulties due to 2020 being an election year could potentially lead to delays in Parliamentary ratification of steps taken by the Forestry Commission (FC). This emerged from an online panel discussion on “The impact of COVID-19 on the management and administration of forests. Views from Ghana”, organised by Accra-based consultancy for legal, policy and regulatory reform, TaylorCrabbe Initiative. The discussion on 19 May brought together experts from industry, civil society and public administration. 

One outcome of Thailand’s EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement is a change in forestry regulation, freeing up smallholder farmers to sell timber from private land, according to a report from the European Forestry Institute FLEGT Facility (www.euflegt.efi.int).

After several rounds of negotiations, the relevant ministries in Indonesia agreed to suspend a Ministry of Trade regulation (15/2020) that would have made V-Legal documents for timber and timber product exports voluntary as of 27 May 2020. At the same time, Indonesia decided to increase financial support for SVLK certification of MSMEs, according to a report by foresthints.news.

Independent forest monitoring capabilities in the Congo Basin are being revolutionised with the help of a collaborative project to strengthen the monitoring role of non-state actors. That’s the view of the Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT), part of the UK’s University of Wolverhampton and the body leading the four-year Citizen Voices for Change (CV4C): Congo Basin Forest Monitoring Project . 

Tropical timber producers around the globe are facing a crisis due to measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19. Direct government action affecting tropical timber production and logistics range from total lockdowns or restricted movement to less stringent approaches. Companies in a number of countries are also suffering from a plunge in international orders.

The January-March 2020  Briefing  Note from the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP/WCMC) reports that the European Commission (EC) has commissioned a Study on Certification and Verification Schemes. This is targeted at CAs and operators, and will have a particular focus on forest and wood-based product certification and verification schemes in the context of EUTR implementation. 

A new study from the Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR) concludes that progress has been made towards many FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement targets in  three partner countries covered; Ghana, Cameroon and Indonesia. That includes in terms of reducing illegal logging, achieving greater industry transparency and engagement of small to medium sized businesses in the political agenda.

Report from ITTO Market Information Service (Volume 24 No 6): Economic forecasts issued only a few weeks ago in Europe, which projected continuing slow increase this year in GDP and business activity in sectors critical to the timber industry, such as construction and furniture, will need to be completely revised in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Issues like Brexit, enforcement of EUTR, the slowing pace of manufacturing in Germany, and the US-China trade dispute, that only a few weeks ago seemed likely to lead the narrative of changing demand for tropical wood products in Europe during 2020, have taken a back seat in response to the transformative effects of the pandemic.

An online information resource, pooling articles, studies and a range of other materials on FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs), has been created by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). The open access FLEGT VPA Library targets researchers, government officials, civil society organizations and other actors involved in monitoring FLEGT VPA processes.

The inclusion of a specific prohibition on buying illegal timber in China’s forest law revision has been greeted as an important advance by government and NGOs. But they also identify potential gaps in its provisions and say more detail on administration and enforcement will be needed before it can be judged whether the amended legislation brings a major new combatant into the battle against the international illegal timber trade.