The adoption and publication of forest management procedures will also be a big time-saver, explains Rodrigue Ngonzo: ‘Civil servants will no longer need to explain over and over the same things to citizens, who will be able to access the information from the website of the Forest Ministry’.
So if procedures are not systematically developed and promulgated in Côte d’Ivoire, what made the forest administration take such initiative for the management of forest resources?
The answer is the FLEGT process that aims to prevent the import of illegal timber into the European Union (EU) and to improve the supply of legal timber. A key component of FLEGT is the negotiation of a trade agreement between partner countries and the EU to address illegal logging, improve forest governance and promote trade in legal timber products. Côte d’Ivoire and the EU have been collaborating on the development of the elements for a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (or VPA), and the process has been linked with a number of significant governance reform activities in the sector.
At the heart of each VPA is a timber legality assurance system, which verifies that wood products conform to national laws. It was through the VPA process and discussions on the development of the Ivorian legality verification system that the Ivoirian VPA technical secretariat identified the need to formally adopt procedures and developed a list of priorities. The nine priority procedures were documented and validated at a May 2017 workshop involving the private sector. They will be made public once validated by the Forest Minister.
Before this step, there were no written procedures for all of the critical steps in acquiring and maintaining forest resource rights. Rodrigue Ngonzo stresses that ‘at the most, there was a list of documents for the applicant to submit. However, a simple list of documents is only one element of a procedure, which also details which authority is to act, how and when, and possibly how much it costs.’
The development of these forest procedures also stands out for the participatory process that underpinned their development. Cheick Tidiane Sylla, the Ivorian Focal Point for the FLEGT VPA, explains that ‘the forest ministry collaborated with other ministries and worked together with representatives from industry, civil society and traditional chiefs.’
Although the development of these forest management procedures may sound like a technicality, Cheick Tidiane Sylla outlines various reasons why it constitutes ‘an important step on the road to improved good forest governance.’ Once formalised, the procedures will not only save users and the public administration time and money, they will also contribute to clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of the various actors involved. They will help establish a transparent framework for the exchanges among all forest stakeholders and lay the ground for the traceability of taxes levied on forest activities, thereby enhancing the accountability of forest authorities.