Tackling Timber Trafficking
EU and Indonesia finalise new trade agreement to restrict the flow of illegal timber into Europe.
Greenpeace estimate that up to 90 percent of logging currently taking place in Indonesia is Illegal. It is hoped that the new Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), signed by the EU and Indonesia and the first of its kind in Asia, will help reduce this number and a begin to better govern a trade estimated to be worth about US$1 billion a year.
Indonesia is a leading supplier to the world's legal timber market. However the global supply of wood failing to satisfy increasing demand coupled with unsatisfactory law enforcement and forest management in the country has also become a major source of illegally harvested timber.
This is bad news for the environment in a country that possesses 123 million hectares of forest, equal to 10 per cent of global forest cover including the third largest tropical rainforest. The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry estimates that in recent years, the country has lost between 1.6 million and 2.8 million hectares of forest annually (between 3 and 5 hectares a minute) to illegal logging and land conversion.
The Environmental Investigation Agency say the new VPA is a massive blow to the timber barons who have long been pillaging Indonesia’s precious rainforests, to satisfy the global market. Under the scheme, timber that is legally exported to the EU would be identified by means of licences issued in signatory countries. Timber shipments to the EU from partner countries that do not have a VPA permit would be denied entry under the Agreement.
The VPA is a key plank of the EU's Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative which is seeking to establish systems to halt the sale of illegal timber products to the EU and address forest governance issues.
In Indonesia all timber production will be subjected to a national timber legality assurance system known as the Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu (SVLK). This will include independent auditing by accredited auditors and independent monitoring.
These agreements are a culmination of more than a decade of relentless campaigning by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency and its Indonesian partner Telapak who have fought to expose the criminals involved in illegal logging and lobby for legislative change.
“This is an incredibly important milestone,” said EIA Senior Campaigner Faith Doherty, who in 2000, along with an Indonesian colleague, was kidnapped, beaten, and held at gunpoint to surrender evidence of the widespread forestry crime in Indonesia, discovered by EIA and Telapak. He continued “Things have come a long way from the early days of EIA’s work in Indonesia with Telapak, when we began to reveal the extent of illegal logging and its appalling environmental and social costs, and to expose the major criminal operations running it and the corruption allowing them to do so.”