VPA joint implementation committees
In each Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), the EU and partner country create a joint implementation committee. The main purpose of the committee is oversee VPA implementation. The committee has both technical and political meetings. Committee members represent the EU and the VPA partner country. An annex to the VPA, or the main text, describes how the joint implementation committee operates.
However, a joint implementation committee only becomes operational when both parties to a VPA have ratified the agreement. This means there can be a gap in oversight of implementation in the period between the parties signing a VPA at the end of the negotiation phase and ratifying it.
In many VPA processes, therefore, the parties have created an interim joint implementation committee to provide oversight in the period between signing and ratifying a VPA.
Some VPA partner countries have different names for the joint implementation committee. In Ghana, for instance, the committee is called the Joint Monitoring and Review Mechanism. In Cameroon, it is the Joint Implementation Council.
Activities of the joint implementation committee
The main text of a VPA, or an annex, describes the purpose, principles and operation of the committee. See the section of VPA Unpacked on the annex on the joint implementation committee.
Most VPAs also have a separate annex detailing an implementation schedule. This schedule is the basis for a joint implementation committee to create a work plan and monitor progress.
Among other things, the committee:
- Agrees to the implementation schedule and evaluates progress
- Sets a schedule for implementation, annual work plans and milestones
- Deals with complaints or concerns from stakeholders in the partner country or the EU
- Oversees the joint evaluation of the timber legality assurance system to determine when the system is ready
- Recommends a date for FLEGT-licensing to become fully operational
- Reviews reports of the independent auditor and the independent market monitor
- Resolves disputes that arise between the parties
- Reviews and recommends amendments to the VPA annexes
- Sets up a framework to monitor the social, environmental and economic impacts of the VPA, and to respond to the findings of impact monitoring
- Publishes key conclusions of committee meetings and an annual report
In some countries, joint implementation committees have become platforms for stakeholders to raise governance issues related to forests that are not embedded in the VPA.
Annual reports of the joint implementation committee
Annual reports of joint implementation committees may provide information on:
- Progress in achieving VPA objectives and on matters relating to VPA implementation
- The volume of trade in FLEGT-licensed timber
- Action to prevent exports or imports of illegally-produced timber products, or to prevent placement or trade of illegally-produced timber in the domestic market
- Cases of non-compliance with the FLEGT licensing scheme and the action taken to deal with them
Composition of the joint implementation committee
Co-chairs. The co-chairs of joint implementation committees are a senior government official from the partner country, such as the minister responsible for forests, and a senior official of the EU delegation in the partner country, such as the head of the EU delegation.
EU. The EU delegation in the VPA partner country takes the lead for the EU and invites representatives of EU member states to join the EU team. EU member states most likely to participate are those with an interest in forestry, an interest in timber trade with the partner country or those with a relevant development cooperation programme in the country.
VPA partner country. The partner-country delegation usually includes representatives of the government forest regulatory agency, FLEGT licensing authority, ministries and government departments involved in implementing the timber legality assurance system, such as customs, and other ministries or departments in charge of finance, international trade, and/or foreign affairs. In most VPAs ratified to date, partner-country governments have included representatives of the private sector, civil society organisations and/or communities in joint implementation committees. Alternatively, governments have established ways for the committee to provide feedback to stakeholder structures. Some VPA partner countries have provided seats on the committee for parliamentarians and/or traditional authorities.
Observers. Each joint implementation committee has a particular dynamic and set of participants invited to join meetings. The two parties invite stakeholders and other observers to join meetings by mutual consent. Observers may:
- Provide specific expertise, for example consultants reporting on findings
- Seek to understand the needs and concerns of the VPA, for example donor partners
- Act as members of the team for a particular purpose, for example to represent EU member states or civil society organisations in the partner country. These members would be in addition to individuals who are formally part of the committee
Secretariat. In most VPA partner countries to date, the government has provided a secretariat to support the joint implementation committee in arranging meetings, coordinating activities and communicating. In Indonesia, the secretariat will be based in an Indonesian government structure, but will be headed jointly by the EU delegation and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
Related sections of VPA Unpacked
Liberia-EU. 2012. Progress Report: Moving Towards VPA Implementation. Preparation for the Implementation of the FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement. 2011–2012. [Download PDF]
Ghana-EU. 2012. Annual Report 2012: Implementing the Ghana-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement [Download PDF]Cameroon-EU. 2013. Joint Annual Report 2013: On the Implementation of the FLEGT VPA in Cameroon [Download PDF; in French]