FLEGT and the Mekong: A handbook for civil society
Recognising that trade drives illegal logging and that poor governance enables it, the European Union (EU) developed the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. Effective participation of all actors — especially staff from governments, the private sector and civil society — is a must to strengthen forest governance. The EU therefore places participation at the heart of the FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) it develops with timber-exporting countries to address illegal logging and associated trade.
Effective participation in a VPA process cannot be taken for granted. National governments from VPA negotiating countries need to allow non-state actors, such as civil society groups, business associations and news media, to participate. Also, all stakeholders must have the required capacities to participate effectively. The EU-funded Voices for Mekong Forests (V4MF) project recognises the importance of this. It is working to empower non-state actors, particularly from civil society, to assess, monitor and respond appropriately to initiatives aiming to strengthen forest governance — including VPAs and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) — and to effectively engage in these processes. As part of this work, the project has developed this handbook to help non-state actors participate effectively in VPA processes.
This handbook was developed by participants in a ‘writeshop’ in Bangkok, Thailand in November 2018. Drawing experience from organisations working at the landscape, national and regional levels in the Greater Mekong Subregion, the meeting set out to answer six key questions about VPAs. The handbook answers these questions and includes links to online information that provides more detail on VPA processes and on progress in each of the Greater Mekong countries.