On March the 8th 2018, the Center for Education and Development (CED) co-chaired to organise the third meeting of the Multi-Stakeholder Implementation Core Group (“multilateral core group”) on the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT) (known as the “VPA-FLEGT Agreement”).
The Core group was established to coordinate promotion and participation of the parties in the implementation of the VPA-FLEGT. The Core group consists of representatives from the private sector, wood industry associations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), research institutes, development partners and verification agencies. The annual meeting of the Joint Performance Committee/ Joint Implementation Committee (JPC/JIC) was chaired by the Vietnam Administration of Forestry (VNFOREST), and the co-chair was a member of the group who was chosen based on a rotating basis (co-chair in the 3rd meeting was CED). The co-chair would propose issues for JPC/JIC to discuss and to promote the process of VPA-FLEGT Agreement.
The third meeting of the Core group was divided into two sessions. The morning session, which was co-chaired by Ms. To Kim Lien, focused on updating the latest developments of the VPA-FLEGT Agreement and discussing activities plan, information and communication in the implementation period of the said Agreement. The afternoon session focused on discussing in depth the independent monitoring of VPA implementation and proposed issues, methods and monitoring tools.
On the opening session of the meeting, Mr. Nguyen Van Ha, the Deputy General Director of VNFOREST gave an overview of the roles, functions, tasks and membership structure of the Core group. He affirmed that the communication, monitoring and recommendation functions were the most important functions of the group. In particular, he emphasized the importance of communication. He believed that all parties to the VPA-FLEGT Agreement including government agencies, businesses and communities need to understand and comply with the content of the VPA.
Until March the 5th 2018, the Core group consisted of 28 members, including 26 official members and 2 observers (European Union Delegation and Embassy of Finland). 26 official members include 7 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 6 groups and associations, 2 institutes and research centers, 4 units under VNFOREST, 4 international organizations and 3 other members (including Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUST), Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and Forestry Club). VNFOREST’s permanent agency will manage documents and support the Core group, maintain operations and mobilize funds for the group.
With respect to the construction of legal documents, Ms. Van raised the main new points in 4 decrees and 7 circulars that VNFOREST drafted. All of these provisions have an important influence on the VPA-FLEGT Agreement as well as its objective. She emphasized that the development of these documents required a lot of consultation and opinions contribution sessions. In order to achieve this, VNFOREST requires a lot of support in organizing funds.
In 2018, the core group must focus on key activities to ensure the following outcomes are achieved: (1) completing the agreement approval process; (2) completing the process of developing legal documents; (3) providing detailed plans for investment and implementation of the Vietnam Timber Legality Assurance System (VNTLAS); (4) developing studies to prepare for VNTLAS and FLEGT licensing; (5) assessing needs and implementing communication activities; (6) developing standard set of information about the VPA-FLEGT Agreement and disseminating to stakeholders; and (7) assessing the status quo and having an action plan for Annex VIII on disclosure of prepared information. All activities that are deployed require advice, support and the unanimous implementation of all core group members.
Ms. To Kim Lien, the director of CED, presented the proposed activities related to the core group. She emphasized that there was a need to have a closer connection and clear assignment among NGOs, civil society organizations (CSOs), associations and government agencies.
Specifically, Ms. To Kim Lien noted that the government agency would provide information and play an essential part in supporting resources and that the remaining members must endeavor to execute their roles in giving comments, building and deploying these resources.
Many delegates felt that in order to maintain the role of the core group, an active participation of each group member was necessary, which could be achieved with a well-functioning mechanism at minimal cost.
Representatives of many units, including the Forestry Club or the National Association of Parks and Nature Reserves, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für
Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and VNFOREST offered to cooperate and to assist the core group in their communication, expertise activities and support funding.
In the afternoon, participants took part in the “Forum of social organizations and forest governance supervision”. Participants drafted a Forest Governance Monitoring Framework, which included monitoring of VNTLAS / LD (As Article 15 of the Agreement) and monitoring the impact of VPA/FLEGT Agreement (such as Article 16 of the Agreement). Mr. Tran Ngoc Tue (Center for Sustainable Rural Development – SRD) observed that there were a number of experts such as Edwin, SRD and GIZ conducting the draft of the strategy of coordination and mutual complementation in the Governance Supervision Forest treatment / VPA and VPA impact assessment as presented in the JIF framework. Mr. Tue also called on interested delegates to join this group.
The orientation of monitoring the impact of the Vietnam NGOs (VNGO) – FLEGT Network has received several comments with respect to the following: focusing on monitoring the impact on the livelihood, social and environmental aspects of VPA/FLEGT as well as group households in the timber supply chain and the VNGO-FLEGT network should select a number of enumeration areas with household groups in the timber supply chain to perform periodic monitoring.
Currently, the VPA-FLEGT process has completed the legal review process and is being submitted by the European Union for internal comments. It is expected that by June 2018, the VPA-FLEGT Agreement will be reviewed, and ratified at the end of 2018.