1 December: VPA entered into force
2 March: VPA ratified in the EU
9 August: VPA ratified in Cameroon
Cameroon’s forests provide millions of people with jobs and subsistence products, and account for 8% of the country’s gross domestic product. Between 1990 and 2010, however, 18% of Cameroon’s forests were destroyed and many millions more hectares of forest were degraded. From 2010-2015 forest cover continued to decline by an average of 1.1% each year. Illegal logging, enabled by poor forest governance and driven by trade, is a major contributor to deforestation. Around 58% of Cameroon’s timber exports are sent to the EU. In 2011, the value of those exports was USD 695.3 million. The Cameroon-EU trade in timber, therefore, has a role to play in addressing the problem of illegal logging.
Sources: FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 and EFI Forest Products Trade Flow Database
A Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) is a legally binding trade agreement between the EU and a timber-exporting country outside the EU. A VPA aims to ensure that all timber and timber products destined for the EU market from a partner country comply with the laws of that country. Under the VPA both parties commit to trading only in legal timber products.
In addition to promoting trade in legal timber, VPAs address the causes of illegality by improving forest governance and law enforcement. A major strength of VPAs is that they look beyond trade to consider development and environmental issues, as well as effects on local populations.
Stakeholders in Government, the private sector and civil society develop VPAs through a participatory process. A VPA is, therefore, a vehicle for addressing the needs of different stakeholders and for including many people who have never before had a voice in decision-making.
VPAs are a key component of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan of 2003. Cameroon is one of six tropical countries that have ratified and are implementing VPAs. Nine more are negotiating VPAs with the EU, while others have expressed interest in negotiating a VPA.
Under a VPA, a partner country issues verified legal timber products with FLEGT licences. The advantage is that FLEGT-licensed products automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which prohibits EU operators from placing illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market.
The EUTR entered into force in 2013. It requires EU operators to perform due diligence checks to ensure the timber products they place on the EU market are legal. FLEGT-licensed timber meets the due diligence requirements under the EUTR.
A VPA partner country can only issue FLEGT licences through a timber legality assurance system that the EU and the partner country have agreed on, developed and tested. Before a country can begin FLEGT licensing, the EU and the partner country must confirm that the country’s timber legality assurance system works as described in the VPA. Confirmation by the two parties means that the system is robust and will issues licenses only to legal timber. FLEGT licensing is not the only goal of a VPA process. Governance reforms, legislative and policy reforms, impact monitoring, improvements to the timber legality assurance system are complementary objectives targeted by VPAs.
Through progress on VPAs, the implementation of the EUTR and dialogues with other important timber markets, including China, the EU and VPA partner countries contribute to a growing global movement to address trade in illegal timber and timber products. The United States and Australia also prohibit the placing of illegal timber on their markets. The process to achieve FLEGT licences may therefore help VPA partner countries such as Cameroon meet the legality requirements of markets beyond the EU.
Moving cut trees near the village of Mbedoumou, Central Region, Cameroon
The Cameroon-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) is a legally binding trade agreement. It aims to ensure that Cameroon produces and exports only legal timber and timber products by improving forest governance and law enforcement.
Although VPAs are primarily concerned with international trade, Cameroon decided to include the production of timber for the domestic market in its Agreement.
Through the Cameroon-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), Cameroon wishes to strengthen control over its forests while ensuring its timber exports can access the EU market. This formal commitment of the Government of Cameroon working alongside the EU affirms the commitment of the two parties to reform the forest sector. The EU pursues VPAs as part of its EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, which it adopted in 2003 to address illegal logging. Through VPAs, the EU helps partner countries improve forest governance and manage forests sustainably, while promoting trade in verified legal timber products.
Cameroon and the EU negotiated the terms of the VPA through a cooperative process. In addition to participating in consultations about the VPA, each of these stakeholder groups was represented on the team that negotiated with the EU on Cameroon’s behalf.
While the VPA was negotiated between Cameroon and the EU, much of its content was negotiated among stakeholders within Cameroon before being discussed in the bilateral negotiations.
VPA negotiations started in November 2007. The negotiations involved representatives of Cameroonian civil society organisations, the private sector, and Government ministries and agencies, contributing to national ownership and stakeholder engagement.
The VPA was agreed in May 2010, signed in October 2010 and entered into force in December 2011. Cameroon and the EU are now implementing the commitments laid out in the VPA text and annexes.
Community forest monitor in action
Cameroon commits to developing a timber legality assurance system so it can issue verified legal timber products with FLEGT licences. Once this system is operational, only FLEGT-licensed timber products will be authorised in the EU, which will allow imports of these products without requiring additional due diligence checks from operators.
Before FLEGT licensing can begin, however, the EU and Cameroon must confirm that Cameroon’s timber legality assurance system is working and meets the requirements set out in the VPA, through a joint evaluation of the system. The joint evaluation must satisfy the Cameroon-EU Joint Implementation Committee that the system is ready to issue FLEGT licences, meaning the system is robust and credible enough to ensure it licenses only legal products.
Cameroon also commits to implementing legal reforms, publicly disclosing information about the forest sector and making other improvements to forest governance. The EU and Cameroon jointly commit to monitor the social, economic and environmental effects of the Agreement.
The timber legality assurance system, governance reforms and other commitments are described in the VPA’s main text and annexes.
A Cameroon-EU Joint Implementation Committee oversees implementation of the VPA. Two structures make up the Joint Implementation Committee: a Joint Implementation Council and a Joint Monitoring Committee. Records of discussions are made public. At the national level, the Ministry of Forests (Ministère des forêts et de la faune – MINFOF) coordinates implementation. A National Monitoring Committee that includes representatives of stakeholder groups focuses on implementation of the VPA from the Cameroonian side.
The VPA includes a framework for overseeing, monitoring and evaluating implementation of the VPA and its economic, social and environmental impacts.
Cameroon’s timber legality assurance system is designed to verify the legality of timber from the forest or the point of import through the entire supply chain to the point of final sale or export. See Annex III of the VPA.
Information transparency workshop, 2014
During VPA negotiations, representatives of civil society and the private sector participated alongside Government representatives in the National Steering Committee and its five technical working groups. These stakeholder groups are also represented in the National Multistakeholder Monitoring Committee and the Cameroon-EU Joint Implementation Committee.
An annex to the VPA lists the information the Government of Cameroon commits to disclose publicly.
The World Resources Institute Open Timber Platform provides information from civil society, the private sector and Government institutions.
The standarised system for external independent observation (Système normalisé d’observation indépendante externe – SNOIE) obtained an ISO 9001 certification in 2017.
The VPA process has made the law relating to Cameroon’s forest sector clearer. The VPA legality definition clarifies what operators in the timber sector must do to comply with the law and the indicators and verification measures auditors must use to assess legality. Clear legislation makes it easier for the police to enforce the law and for the justice system to prosecute illegal loggers. A process of revising the legal definition is ongoing. The objective is to make it easier to implement on the ground and to identify possible gaps.
Cameroon chose to include timber for the domestic market in its VPA. Therefore, Cameroon’s timber legality assurance system will apply to all timber produced in the country, irrespective of its destination.
In Cameroon, the VPA process has opened up spaces for participation. Civil society representatives actively engaged in negotiating the VPA. The National Monitoring Committee, central to the implementation of the VPA, has one seat each for NGOs, local communities, indigenous peoples and representatives of communal forests. Representatives of civil society and communities have also been regularly invited to attend the Joint Monitoring Committee meetings.
Working together against illegal logging around Kribi, Cameroon
Cameroon has already established the legal basis for issuing FLEGT licences to meet VPA requirements. In late 2014, Cameroon appointed a service provider to upgrade its forest information management system, known as SIGIF, so it can record the information needed to issue legality certificates, verify the chain of custody, include fiscal information and document non-compliances.
FLEGT licensing cannot begin until a joint evaluation of the timber legality assurance system by Cameroon and the EU confirms that the system functions as described in the VPA. When the joint evaluation has concluded that the timber legality assurance system works as described in the VPA, the Joint Implementation Committee can propose that Cameroon begins to issue FLEGT licences. Once a decision is made to commence FLEGT licensing, the parties will follow their respective internal processes, including legislative measures, such as amending the FLEGT Regulation on the EU side.
Once FLEGT licensing begins, a valid FLEGT licence must accompany all exports to the EU of Cameroonian timber-based products listed in Annex I of the VPA. EU customs officials will deny entry to any products covered by the VPA that arrive without a valid FLEGT licence.
The EU and Cameroon have made a joint commitment to monitor the social, economic and environmental effects of the Agreement. Monitoring will consider whether the VPA is having the desired outcomes. It will also identify unintended negative effects for the EU and Cameroon to address and mitigate. In 2014, the Joint Monitoring Committee established a multistakeholder working group to propose a monitoring system. The working group agreed on how to involve the different stakeholders. It also proposed to hire a consultant to support developing the monitoring system. In 2016, with the help of the consultant, the EU and Cameroon agreed on a set of indicators to monitor VPA impacts. Next steps include finalising the monitoring system and establishing a baseline. The Joint Monitoring Committee is responsible for endorsing the system. In 2020, CIFOR released results of evidence of FLEGT-VPA impacts for improved FLEGT communication, using Cameroon as one of the country case studies.
The European Commission has appointed the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) as an independent market monitor for all VPA countries. ITTO will assess the trade in timber products between Cameroon and the EU, and the impacts of FLEGT licensing on this trade.
What products does the Cameroon FLEGT-licensing scheme cover? How do the types of products compare with the types of products covered by the EU Timber Regulation?
During the VPA negotiations, Cameroonian stakeholders from Government, the private sector and civil society reached agreement on which types of timber products to include. All wood products currently produced in Cameroon are covered by the VPA, including logs, sawn wood, veneers, plywood, flooring and furniture.
Products covered by the Cameroonian FLEGT licensing scheme include all those required by the EU regulation establishing a FLEGT licensing scheme, which are a minimum requirement for VPAs. You can check the products covered by the FLEGT licensing scheme. In addition to the minimum requirements of the product scope of a VPA, the Cameroonian FLEGT licensing scheme also covers furniture and wooden tools. See the Annex I of the Cameroon-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) for details.
The VPA also describes the list of species whose logs are banned from export and that cannot be legally exported from Cameroon. These products cannot be FLEGT licensed.
How do the EU and Cameroon make information about their formal meetings available?
Cameroon and the EU publish the minutes of meetings of the joint monitoring committee (JMC) and of the joint implementation council. The JMC also publishes an annual report. All of these publications appear on the VPA website of the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF) and the website of the EU delegation to Cameroon.
In addition to the minutes of the joint VPA decision-making structures, Cameroon publishes the minutes of the national monitoring committee (NMC), the Cameroonian body involving national stakeholders in VPA implementation. These minutes also appear on the MINFOF’s VPA website.
How important is the trade in timber products from Cameroon to the EU?
The EU is a key market for Cameroonian forest products. In 2014, the value of Cameroonian timber products exported to the EU was USD 532 million, which amounted to 58% of total timber exports (source: Comtrade).
How much of Cameroon’s timber production does the VPA cover?
Once operational, the VPA’s timber legality assurance system will cover all timber and timber products produced, acquired and/or in circulation in Cameroon. This includes wood and timber products imported into Cameroon. Cameroon’s timber legality assurance system and related regulations apply to all markets. However, only exports to the EU will receive a FLEGT licence.
How useful is the VPA, given that Cameroon’s timber products are increasingly going to less scrupulous markets than the EU?
Cameroon’s timber legality assurance system and related regulations apply to all markets.
How does the timber legality assurance system work in Cameroon?
The VPA includes eight different legality standards for timber and timber products from different sources. For each legality standard, the VPA lists criteria, indicators and verifiers that can be used to assess compliance. In addition, the underlying Cameroonian legislation describes agreed upon verification methods. See Annex III of the VPA and the VPA website page on verification and traceability.
What is a certificate of legality?
A certificate of legality is a compulsory requirement for forest operators in Cameroon. A certificate of legality is a document issued by the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF) attesting that the operator has conducted its activities in accordance with the law. On 7 February 2013 Cameroon adopted Decree nº 004 regulating the procedure for delivering certificates of legality in the context of the VPA.
How does the VPA deal with the wood Cameroon imports?
The VPA timber legality assurance system applies to all sources of production or acquisition of timber and timber products in circulation in Cameroon, including timber imported into Cameroon.
How does the VPA deal with timber in transit in Cameroon?
The VPA timber legality assurance system applies to all sources of timber and timber products produced, acquired and/or in circulation in Cameroon. This includes wood in transit into Cameroon.
Do companies that hold voluntary certiﬁcation (such as FSC or PEFC) also have to follow the VPA timber legality assurance system?
Yes. Operators that hold voluntary certification will be subject to the same requirements as non-certified operators. All exporters need to get FLEGT licences to export timber products.
What does it mean that voluntary certificates can be approved by the VPA timber legality assurance system?
To avoid duplication of effort, the VPA legality assurance system allows private certifying organisations and private auditors to be approved by the Cameroonian Government in the framework of the FLEGT licensing system. Once approved, companies holding private certificates awarded by an approved certifying body can apply to receive certificates of legality without further verification by the Government.
When will FLEGT licensing start?
FLEGT licensing cannot begin until a joint assessment of the timber legality assurance system by Cameroon and the EU confirms that the system is fully operational, as described in the VPA.
Until Cameroon issues FLEGT licences, what requirements must its timber meet to enter the European market?
Under the Cameroonian-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), Cameroon and the EU have agreed on a series of measures to reinforce the verification and controls of the Cameroonian timber legality assurance system. FLEGT licences are the only document that automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).
Until the start of FLEGT licensing, Cameroonian products that are exported to the EU will have to go through the normal due diligence process under the EUTR, which requires EU companies placing timber on the European market to assess and mitigate the risk of illegal timber entering their supply chain. Once FLEGT licensing starts, FLEGT-licensed products automatically meet the EUTR requirements, meaning that no due diligence is required.
EU authorities have imposed sanctions to EU importers of timber from Cameroon. What is Cameroon doing to prevent future shipments of illegally harvested timber and how is the VPA helping?
On 9 March 2016, the Netherlands imposed administrative sanctions on the Dutch company Fibois B.V. for importing Cameroonian timber in violation of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR). The sanctions followed an investigation by Greenpeace into the Cameroonian timber trader CCT, from which Fibois BV sourced its timber. The company was also instructed by Dutch regulators to stop placing wood from CCT on the Dutch market or face a financial penalty. In addition, the company file was presented to the Dutch criminal prosecutors with a view to file a criminal case on the basis of the CCT timber that had already sold. Fibois B.V. is appealed the injunction and the case was referred to the administrative chamber of a Haarlem court in March 2016. The Dutch court ruled against the company in July 2017.
How is the EU Timber Regulation affecting Cameroon timber trade with the EU?
Analysis of Eurostat data by US research institute Forest Trends shows that timber imports from Cameroon have dropped in a number of EU countries that have relatively well-resourced EU Timber Regulation enforcement agencies. Reduction of imports of around 40% can be observed in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Bulgaria. By contrast, there have been increases in imports from Cameroon to Belgium, Spain, Italy, Estonia, Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Malta.
Forest Trends estimates that there is a two-year time lag between enforcement activity in Europe and changes in importer behaviour being identifiable in international trade data, and that it is likely that the downward trend will continue given the recent cases against importers of timber from Cameroon.
Once the Cameroon-EU VPA is operational, Cameroonian timber and timber products exported to Europe will be accompanied by a FLEGT licence. FLEGT licensed timber meets the due diligence requirements of the EUTR directly and operators in the EU will not need to exercise further due diligence.
What is a FLEGT licence?
A FLEGT licence is a licence issued by a timber-producing country that has a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU). The licence attests to the legality of the timber or timber products.
When the timber legality assurance system is fully working as described in the Cameroon-EU VPA, Cameroon will issue FLEGT licences for timber bound for the EU. See Annex V of the VPA to see the format of the FLEGT licence.
What will the FLEGT licence from Cameroon look like?
The FLEGT licence looks like the template in Annex V of the Cameroon-EU VPA.
What is the difference between a certificate of legality and a FLEGT licence?
A certificate of legality is mandatory for forest sectors operators in Cameroon and attests that the operator harvesting, transporting, transforming or trading timber and timber products in Cameroon is in compliance with the law. A FLEGT licence attests that forest operators and the chain of custody of the timber and timber products exported to Europe have followed the legal requirements as described in the Cameroon-EU VPA.
Is a certificate of legality enough to prove the legality of timber from Cameroon?
No. Under Cameroonian law, certificates of legality constitute proof that the operator holding the certificate conducts their activities in accordance with Cameroonian law. The certificates of legality do not, however, attest to the legality of the supply chain for the timber or timber products.
Without a working timber legality assurance system, such as the timber legality assurance system agreed in the Cameroon-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), a certificate of legality cannot prove the legality of the timber or timber products. Until the start of FLEGT licensing, Cameroonian products that are exported to the EU will have to go through the normal due diligence process under the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR). Once FLEGT licensing starts, FLEGT-licensed products automatically meet the EUTR requirements, meaning that no due diligence will be required.
Cameroon is almost ready to issue certificates of legality and export licences. How do these relate to FLEGT licences? Are FLEGT licences better?
Under the Cameroonian-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), Cameroon and the EU have agreed on a series of measures to reinforce the verification and controls of the Cameroonian timber legality assurance system. This aspect of VPA implementation is ongoing and, as yet, FLEGT licensing has not, begun. FLEGT licences are the only document that automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).
Under Cameroonian law, export licences constitute a proof of legality for Cameroonian timber products. Without a working VPA timber legality assurance system underpinning an export licence, however, a Cameroonian export licence is not recognised in the EU as proof of the legality of the timber or timber products. Until the start of FLEGT licensing, Cameroonian products that are exported to the EU will have to go through the normal due diligence process as required by the EUTR.
Certificates of legality are one of the requirements needed for FLEGT licences to be delivered. Once the VPA legality assurance system is operational, certificates of legality will constitute a proof that the forest operator is exercising its activities following the law. Alone, certificates of legality do not constitute a proof of legality of the timber being harvested, traded, processed or exported by an operator.
A FLEGT licence will attest to the legality of Cameroonian timber and timber products. When the VPA legality assurance system is operational, verified legal products of types listed in Annex I of the VPA and exported to Europe will receive a FLEGT licence. FLEGT-licensed products automatically meet the EUTR requirements, meaning that no due diligence is required.
The VPA timber legality assurance system applies to all Cameroonian operators and timber products, but FLEGT licences will only be given to exports destined to the European market. Once FLEGT licensing starts, Cameroon will continue to issue export licences for exports to non-EU markets for the products covered in the VPA. Those products will have followed the same quality standards that timber holding a FLEGT licence.
What is the link between FLEGT licensing and CITES in Cameroon?
Once the VPA legality assurance system is operational, exports of products from species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to Europe will need both CITES documentation and a FLEGT licence. This requirement is covered by the VPA legality standards, except in the case of round logs of species included under annex I-B as Cameroon prohibits exports of such products so they can never have CITES documentation nor be FLEGT licensed.
The FLEGT Regulation and the Cameroon-EU VPA state that timber products subject to the CITES will not undergo the procedure described for the FLEGT-licensed products at the EU border. Therefore, it is possible that some CITES timber shipments are accompanied by both a CITES import permit (annexes A and B) or a CITES import notification (annex C) and a FLEGT licence.
How will FLEGT licences be issued?
The licensing authority will issue FLEGT licences to accompany consignments of verified legal timber that registered operators wish to export to the EU.
FLEGT licences are issued at the point at which the consignment is consolidated prior to export. What follows is a summary of the procedure. For full details, consult Annex V of the Cameroon-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and Decree nº 003 of 7 February 2013 regulating the procedure for issuing FLEGT licences.
To obtain a FLEGT licence, the exporter applies to the licensing authority via a private access account within the computerised forest information management system (Système informatique de gestion des informations forestières – SIGIF). Prior to applying for a FLEGT licence, the exporter or its representative should apply for a certificate of compliance with the law of the products to be exported:
If the operator complies with legality and supply chain requirements, the licensing authority issues a FLEGT licence in the format presented in Annex V of the VPA.
Who is the Licensing Authority?
The licensing authority has not yet been appointed. The Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF) will host the licensing authority. To avoid conflict of interest, the MINFOF will ensure a clear separation between personnel with responsibilities for legality verification and for FLEGT licensing.
How can EU competent authorities access relevant information on the FLEGT licences they receive?
If specific questions arise, the EU competent authorities can contact the licensing authority in Cameroon directly.
Will Cameroonian port authorities stop a consignment from being exported if it has no FLEGT licence?
When FLEGT licensing starts, Cameroonian port authorities shall stop (at port) consignments from being exported to the EU if the products fall within the scope of the VPA and the consignment has no FLEGT licence. For other destinations, Cameroonian port authorities shall stop (at port) consignments that lack export licences.
How can an EU operator be sure a FLEGT licence is genuine? Will Cameroon check to ensure that its FLEGT licences are genuine? Could a licence be counterfeit?
It would be difficult to counterfeit a FLEGT licence, as a valid FLEGT licence can only be issued after the computerised forest information management system (Système informatique de gestion des informations forestières – SIGIF) operated by the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF) attests the legal compliance of the timber or timber products. Reconciliation with the SIGIF would allow authorities to assess the validity and authenticity of a FLEGT licence.
Once an EU competent authority confirms it has received a FLEGT-licensed consignment, the SIGIF will automatically update the FLEGT licence’s record, ensuring that the same licence cannot be recorded again.
Cameroonian customs and local MINFOF staff at the point of export have access to the information hosted by the SIGIF, so they can check that a licence is valid and not a counterfeit. To be valid, all the information in the FLEGT licence must match the information recorded in the SIGIF system.
The requirements and technical specifications of the FLEGT licence are described in Annex V of the Cameroon-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).
The VPA timber legality assurance system also include safeguards such as an independent audit, which aim to detect any systemic failures and report them to the VPA joint monitoring committee (JMC). In Cameroon civil society also plays a crucial role in carrying out independent observation and informing the MINFOF’s National Forest Law Enforcement Brigade, the VPA independent auditor and the JMC about potential individual frauds and system loopholes.
Why is the VPA process taking so long?
Meaningful change takes time. Each VPA negotiation process takes the time necessary to build a consensus among national stakeholders and to design, revise and implement a timber legality assurance system that is robust and credible.
How will the impacts of the VPA be monitored?
The EU and Cameroon made a joint commitment to monitor the social, economic and environmental effects of the Agreement.
How does the VPA beneﬁt Cameroon?
The VPA is expected to bring economic, social and environmental benefits to Cameroon.
Does the Cameroon-EU VPA entail action to improve forest governance?
The VPA aims to improve accountability, transparency, participation, technical and human capacity, legislative clarity and other aspects of forest governance.
In 2016, to facilitate the reading of the information available, the MINFOF, together with the FAO and CIFOR, published a baseline report on the ‘State of the Forest Sector in Cameroon (2015)’.
How can the VPA address corruption?
The VPA has led improved transparency, accountability, legislative and institutional clarity and the capacity of civil society to hold Government and the private sector to account. These all help to address corruption.
Is the VPA fair to small-scale operators in the sector?
The VPA process has opened up spaces for small-scale operators to participate in forest policy. It has also provided support to help small-scale operators comply with the new market requirements.
Video: Cameroonians with small timber businesses visit Belgium to discuss trade in legal timber with the EU. This video is also available in French.
How does the VPA protect community rights?
Civil society representatives actively engaged in negotiating the VPA and pushed for the recognition of community rights within the VPA. As a result, the VPA contains specific provisions to respect and protect the rights of communities. In addition, the VPA has opened up spaces for communities and civil society to work with the Government of Cameroon to improve the recognition of community rights in Cameroonian laws and policies related to the forest sector.
Video: The director of the Cameroonian NGO APED explains that FLEGT is an opportunity to challenge and question the Government about taking community rights into account.
How does the VPA deal with the rights of indigenous peoples?
The Cameroon – EU VPA mentions the rights of indigenous peoples and takes specific measures to protect them.
How does the VPA address timber produced from the conversion of forests to other land uses, such as for agriculture?
The VPA timber legality assurance system is intended to ensure that all timber and timber products can be traded nationwide or exported only if they have met legal obligations. The VPA joint monitoring committee (JMC) is tasked with ensuring that the VPA timber legality assurance system remains credible. In this context, the challenges posed by timber from forest conversion is an issue that the JMC monitors.
How has the VPA responded to the claims around the Herakles Farms (SGSOC) concession and what were the outcomes?
The VPA has offered a political avenue for stakeholders to raise concerns over illegalities linked to the oil palm plantation project of the US firm Herakles Farms (SGSOC). This case has also helped highlight and understand credibility issues that conversion timber poses for the VPA.
EU reactions to the challenges highlighted by the Herakles Farms case:
What if problems emerge? Who has oversight of the VPA?
Two joint (EU-Cameroon) structures oversee implementation of the VPA and will respond to any concerns about problems in implementation as they arise: the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and the Joint Implementation Council. In other VPAs. Implementation therefore improves as it proceeds. See Article 19 and Annex XI of the VPA.
How does the VPA address grievances?
The VPA includes a mechanism to resolve grievances. Under the agreement, stakeholders can raise issues with the Cameroon-EU Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) through the independent auditor or by putting matters of concern on the agenda for JMC meetings. See Annex XI.c of the VPA.
Who is the independent auditor?
The independent auditor is an organisation (with auditing qualifications following ISO rules) whose role is to regularly assess whether the timber legality assurance system functions as described in the VPA. The independent auditor reports findings to the Cameroon-EU Joint Implementation Council via a report submitted to the VPA Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC). A public summary of the reports will be made available.
Are the results of the independent audits available?
Once independent audits start, public summaries of the reports will be available on the VPA website of the Cameroonian Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF).
What has been the result of the audits carried out by the independent auditor and what where the outcomes?
The VPA independent auditor in place between 2013-2014 assessed the conformity of documents related to the allocation of forest titles and made an inventory of confiscated timber in Cameroon. As the VPA’s timber legality assurance system was not in operation during the period of activity of the independent auditor, no audit of the system was carried out.
What is the role of independent observers in the VPA?
During the VPA negotiations, Cameroonian stakeholders from Government, the private sector and civil society decided that independent observation has a role to play to monitor forest governance in the context of the VPA, but that it should not be a compulsory part of the legality assurance system.
What complaints have independent observers made and what were the outcomes?
Since 2014, after over a decade of formal independent observation, national civil society has been organised in a network of independent observers. The standarised system for external independent observation (SNOIE) provides information to the competent administrations in charge of forest controls.
What will happen to FLEGT licensed timber that is shown to be illegal?
What happens when the legality assurance system fails to detect illegal timber?
If and when illegal timber is shown to have passed through Cameroon’s timber legality assurance system undetected, this will provide opportunities to strengthen the system to avoid a reoccurrence of the breach.