FLEGT is more than a trading license. It reflects a country-wide process committed to sustainably managing forests and the timber produced thus closing the door on illegal logging.
Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) is a product of painstaking, multi-stakeholder processes and technical systems development. (FLEGT) is the European Unions response to illegal logging and subsequent trade. Centred in tropical forests, fifteen countries are currently in the implementing or negotiating phase, with Indonesia the first FLEGT-licensed country.
These countries account for 80% of the global tropical timber trade. In 2017 the EU imported €3.78 billion of wood products from these fifteen countries (FLEGT IMM). Illegal logging, accounts for up to 30% of the global timber trade, an equivalent worth of $51-152 billion annually (NEPCON; World Resources Institute).
In addition to revenue and taxation loss, this transnational crime is often linked to corruption, civil conflict, human rights violations and further organised crime. Prior to a FLEGT-license, the implementing country must undergo vast transformations to their governance, integrate sustainable forest management and overhaul their current forestry practices.
This involves the creation of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). This bilateral agreement between the EU and tropical timber-exporting country works to guarantee that any timber exported to the EU comes from legal sources, preventing the trade of illegal logged timber.
Seven measures support the VPA process. These include the promotion of trade in legal timber and procurement policies that foster environmental and social benefits, strengthening or introducing legislation, and addressing the problem of conflict timber. This process requires stakeholder dialogue, monitoring, transparency, accountability and access to forestry sector information. The VPA process brings social, economic and environmental benefits, long before the FLEGT license is granted.
In simple terms, a FLEGT licence guarantees that timber is legal, and automatically meets the requirements of the European Union Timber Regulation requirements (EUTR). This means that FLEGT licensed countries effectively receive a “green lane” to export goods into the EU without further due diligence. It puts FLEGT licensed goods ahead of all other forest exports as products are regarded as safe, legal and responsible.
Across the globe, action has been inspired from the FLEGT Action Plan including in Australia, Japan and South Korea. In addition, China’s revised forest law, which prohibits Chinese companies from trafficking illegal timber, can be seen as a major positive for FLEGT.
The only way we can keep forests standing is by allowing the people who live in them to realise the benefits out of keeping trees standing: socially, environmentally and economically. Therefore, the best way to achieve this is to reward those countries who have undergone such massive changes by specifying/ buying FLEGT licensed goods. And to change companies’ procurement policies to accept this.