Legal reforms resulting from VPA processes
All Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) agreed to date have emerged from multistakeholder processes that have identified shortcomings in existing legal frameworks. Shortcomings include:
- Unclear rights to land and trees
- Inconsistent or weak enforcement of existing laws
- Contradictory laws
- Overlapping institutional responsibilities
- An absence of legislation needed to implement FLEGT licensing
By highlighting shortcomings in legislation, a VPA process enables stakeholders to identify solutions. As a result, a VPA partner country may undertake legal reforms and adopt new laws to address challenges identified during the VPA process.
To date, the level of ambition of legal reforms in VPAs has varied with respect to both timing and content. Most short-term reforms concern the traceability and verification aspects of a timber legality assurance system that are necessary before FLEGT licensing can begin. Reforms that are likely to take time include those relating to tree tenure, domestic markets, customary rights, benefit sharing and governance.
Examples of legal reforms in the context of VPAs include:
- Cameroon developed and signed new legal texts to address verification of legality, FLEGT licensing and non-compliance. Reform of the 1994 forest law is ongoing.
- In the Central African Republic, the VPA process identified environmental legislation that must be finalised before FLEGT licensing begins. The VPA states that additional legislative reforms to integrate artisanal producers and community forests in the VPA will take place in the future.
- The VPA for Ghana distinguishes reforms that must precede FLEGT licensing from reforms that can come later, but within a specific time frame. Later reforms relate to governance issues and benefit sharing. As a result of the VPA, the government and a dialogue platform convened by a nongovernmental organisation have developed and agreed policies to address illegal logging in the domestic market.
- In Indonesia, legal reforms have advanced in parallel with the VPA process. As a result of some of these reforms, annexes such as the legality definition and others will be revised.
- Liberia's reforms include new regulations to address pit-sawing; chainsaw logging; abandoned logs; transit, imported and confiscated timber; third-party access and use of resources in concession areas.
- In the Republic of the Congo, VPA-facilitated reforms include the revision of the Forest Code and adoption of the Indigenous Peoples Law. Other legislative reforms are ongoing.
Ongoing stakeholder participation in legal reform processes is important and reflects the negotiation process. Experience has shown that for reforms to be effective, public authorities need to disseminate information on legal instruments and the process for legal reform, and to provide adequate time for stakeholders to participate.
Related sections of VPA Unpacked
Bollen, A. and Ozinga, S. 2013. Improving Forest Governance. A Comparison of FLEGT VPAs and Their Impact. FERN. 50pp. [Download PDF]
Faure, N. and Lesniewska, F. 2012. Implementing VPAs: Outlining Approaches for Civil Society's Participation in VPA-related Law Reforms. Ghana Regional Workshop: Experiences from the FLEGT/VPA process in West and Central African countries. ClientEarth. [Download PDF]