Q&A

Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement

This page provides answers to some common questions about the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement, FLEGT licensing, Indonesia’s SVLK timber legality assurance system and the EU Timber Regulation.

Part One: Background and basics

What is the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA)?

The VPA is a legally-binding bilateral trade agreement that aims to improve forest governance and promote trade in legal timber from Indonesia to the EU.

  • VPAs are among the key tools of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Government and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan of 2003. As of mid-2015, besides Indonesia, five African countries are implementing VPAs they have agreed with the EU.
  • Under the agreement both parties commit to trading only in legal timber products.
  • Among other things, the VPA describes a timber legality assurance system capable of verifying the legality of timber products. From 15 November 2016, the timber legality assurance system will issue FLEGT licences to accompany Indonesian exports of verified legal timber products to the EU. Exports to other markets with be accompanied by V-Legal Documents.
  • Indonesia will then only export FLEGT-licensed timber products to the EU. The EU will only allow Indonesian timber exports to enter the EU if they are accompanied by a valid FLEGT licence. FLEGT-licensed timber is considered as meeting the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits EU importers and domestic producers from placing illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market.
  • FLEGT licensing is an important goal of the VPA but it is not the only one. The VPA process has already led to improved transparency, participation, capacity, accountability and other aspects of forest governance.
  • The VPA includes commitments to public disclosure of information and further improvements to forest governance. The VPA also includes a framework for overseeing, monitoring and evaluating implementation of the VPA and the economic, social and environmental impacts of the VPA.
  • Learn more about VPAs in VPA Unpacked. Learn more about the Indonesia-EU VPA in this media backgrounder. Read the text and annexes of the Indonesia-EU VPA.

Is the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement available online?

Yes, you can read the full agreement and its annexes here. You can read the revised annexes here.

How was the Indonesia-EU VPA negotiated?

Indonesia and the EU negotiated the VPA through a process that involved input from stakeholders representing the Indonesian government, private sector and civil society. In addition to participating in consultations about the VPA, each of these stakeholder groups was represented in the team that negotiated with the EU on Indonesia’s behalf.

  • While the VPA was negotiated between Indonesia and the EU, much of its content was negotiated among stakeholders within Indonesia before being discussed in the bilateral negotiations.
  • Negotiations began in 2007 and concluded in 2011. Indonesia and the EU signed the agreement in 2013 and ratified the agreement in 2014. The VPA came into force in May 2014.

What is the relationship between the SVLK and VPA?

SVLK is the name of Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system, a central component of the VPA.

  • Indonesia began to develop the SVLK before VPA negotiations started and the SVLK passed into law before VPA negotiations ended.
  • The SVLK forms the basis of the VPA. Meanwhile, VPA negotiations and implementation have influenced reforms of the SVLK.
  • When the SVLK is operating as described in the VPA, Indonesia can begin issuing FLEGT-licences to verified legal timber it exports to the EU. FLEGT-licensed timber automatically meets the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits EU importers and domestic producers from placing illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market.
  • The VPA contains more than just the timber legality assurance system. For instance, it includes commitments to transparency and a mechanism to monitor impacts of its implementation.
  • Indonesia has revised the SVLK has several times to accommodate stakeholder needs and improve efficiency. This triggered a revision of three VPA annexes in 2014/2015.

Why has the VPA process taken so long?

Meaningful change takes time. The VPA process took 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.

  • Although it has taken longer than expected for Indonesia to deliver FLEGT-licensed timber, many other gains have resulted from the VPA process and its underlying national process already.
  • These benefits include improved transparency, legislative clarity, human and technical capacity, accountability, stakeholder participation and other aspects of good forest governance.
  • The VPA process has involved an unprecedented level of stakeholder participation.
  • According to Chatham House research, Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system and reforms to the forest sector have cut the proportion of logging that is illegal, from 83% in 2001 to 40% in 2010.
  • Independent research from Chatham House concluded that the EU- Indonesia VPA had contributed to a decline in illegal logging and an improvement in forest governance.

When will FLEGT licensing start?

Indonesia will begin FLEGT licensing on 15 November 2016. When FLEGT licensing starts, all Indonesian exports to the EU of timber products covered by Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system must be accompanied by FLEGT licences.

What was the issue with the P89 timber export regulation?

In October 2015, the Ministry of Trade issued a new regulation (P89) for timber exports. This regulation allowed exporters of furniture covered by the Agreement to choose to export without legality verification under the timber legality assurance system (SVLK)

  • Such a provision fundamentally contradicted the VPA, which requires that all exports are covered by the SVLK and its related licensing scheme. In other words, under the VPA, all consignments composed of timber products listed in Annex I of the VPA (on product scope) should be accompanied with an export licence (FLEGT licence for EU market and V-Legal Document for any other market).
  • In April 2016, the Ministry of Trade issued a new regulation which restored the requirement for exports of all products listed in Annex I of the VPA to be verified legal by the SVLK. By bringing the domestic regulation in line with the VPA, Indonesia cleared the last main hurdle before FLEGT licensing.

What products does the Indonesian 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, Indonesian stakeholders from government, the private sector and civil society reached agreement on which types of timber products to include.

Products covered by the Indonesian FLEGT licensing scheme include all those for which the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) requires due diligence. You can check the products covered by the EUTR here.

In addition to the minimum requirements of the product scope of a VPA, the Indonesian FLEGT licensing scheme also covers furniture, fuel wood, wooden tools, wooden packing material, builders' joinery and carpentry of wood, wood pulp, paper and paper products, kitchen and tableware, and other products. See the revised Annex I of the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) for details.

The VPA also describes products that cannot be legally exported from Indonesia, such as logs and large dimension sawn timber. These products cannot be FLEGT licensed.  Products made from rattan or bamboo (non-wooden materials), or paper made from recycled material, are excluded and don’t need to be FLEGT-licensed because they are not covered by the timber legality assurance system.

What do Indonesian private sector actors think about the SVLK and VPA?

Associations of Indonesian private sector actors include: APHI, APKINDO, ISWA, APKI, ASMINDO, AWKMI, and AMKRI.

  • There is widespread support for the SVLK and VPA among these associations and their members. This support is the result of continuous private-sector engagement with the SVLK and VPA processes. Some timber processing companies have even financed SVLK certification for their suppliers.
  • In 2014, some members of one of the associations of furniture and handicraft producers, AMKRI, advocated for small and medium furniture producers to be exempted from SVLK requirements and controls. In 2015, some AMKRI members said transitional SVLK exemption measures for small and medium enterprises and low-risk timber should be extended to all industries and applied permanently, limiting the scope of the SVLK to timber production and trade that precedes initial processing.
  • These views were, however, not shared by all AMKRI members. Many AMKRI members are also members of ASMINDO, which supports the SVLK.
  • The newest export regulation, issued in April 2016, made it clear that all sectors, including furniture, are fully in the scope of SVLK for export.

How do the EU and Indonesia make information about their formal meetings available?

Indonesia and the EU publish summaries of meetings, called Records of Discussion, of the Joint Implementation Committee and its subsidiary body, the Joint Expert Meetings. The Joint Implementation Committee also publishes an annual report. All of these publications appear on the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s SILK website and the website of the EU delegation to Indonesia. In addition, some documentation and other information are made available on the website of the Multistakeholder Forestry Programme (MFP).

How important is the trade in timber products from Indonesia to the EU?

The EU is a key market for Indonesian forest products. In 2014, the value of Indonesian timber products exported to the EU was US$645 million, up from US$593 million in 2013 (source: Indonesia-EU VPA Joint Implementation Committee Annual Report May 2014-April 2015).

  • The main timber products destined for the EU are paper, paper board, wooden furniture and plywood.
  • Indonesia does not export unprocessed products such as logs and rough sawn timber.
  • The main destination markets within the EU are Germany, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy.
  • For more information on trade flows see website and reports of the FLEGT Independent Market Monitor

How much of Indonesia’s timber production does the SVLK cover?

Indonesia is rolling the SVLK out nationwide. By mid-2016, it had certified more than 2,700 companies operating in the timber industry and more than 22 million hectares of forests. Between 1 January 2013 and 1 May 2016, Indonesia had issued 404,902 V-Legal Documents to timber exported to 199 countries and worth a total of USD 26.3 billion.

  • To date (April 2016) all active natural forest concessions, all industrial forest plantations with production and all plantations managed by PerumPerhutani are legally certified. Also 96% of all registered exporters (1800 timber producers and traders) are SVLK-certified. For more data see the SILK website.

In October 2015, the Indonesian Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK) said Indonesia’s reported timber production was far less than what is actually harvested from natural forests. It suggested that Ministry statistics captured only 19–23% of total timber production. Does this mean the VPA and SVLK account for less than 25% of total Indonesian timber production?

The KPK report [PDF] covers the period 2003-2014. It is based on expert estimations, not on field work or remote sensing.  As a response to the report’s findings, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry is developing an integrated production data management system for all sources of timber. The system’s development is among the list of actions in the Indonesia-EU VPA action plan up to the end of 2017. A module that captures in real-time the production in natural forests and plantations by forest concessions is already in place (see http://puhh.dephut.net/itts/home_default). The KPK analysed natural forest production until 2014. Today, however, plantations and smallholders on private lands account for most of Indonesia’s timber production. Indonesia’s VPA timber legality assurance system covers all sources of timber. In 2016, therefore, the majority of Indonesia's total timber production comes from SVLK sources.

How useful is the VPA, given that a significant portion of Indonesia’s timber products go to less scrupulous markets than the EU?

Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system (SVLK) and related regulations apply to all markets.

  • Indonesia regulated that the SVLK apply to all markets. With this commitment, Indonesia requested that the VPA apply to all exports, not only those bound for the EU. FLEGT alone cannot stop trade in illegal timber, especially if major markets remain less regulated. Indeed, under the FLEGT Action Plan, the EU seeks to work with other major timber consumers to develop a more comprehensive framework to reduce imports of illegally harvested timber.
  • China, which is the world’s largest importer of tropical timber and also the main buyer of Indonesian timber, is developing its own legality assurance system and there are efforts to link it to FLEGT under the EU-China Bilateral Coordination Mechanism on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG). Bilateral and trilateral exchanges (China-Indonesia-EU) on timber legality occur and/or are planned.
  • Other markets have implemented or are designing measures to eradicate illegal timber from their imports. These markets include the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

Part Two: How Indonesia verifies the legality of timber and timber products

What is the timber legality assurance system, or SVLK?

Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system, or SVLK, 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 V of the VPA.

  • The application of SVLK is mandatory for all forest management units and industries, traders and timber depots, and for all export destinations.
  • Indonesia developed and has revised its timber legality assurance system through a multistakeholder process that, after 2007, coincided with the VPA process.
  • The SVLK entered law in 2009. Its export licences, which are called V-Legal Documents, became compulsory for some product types in 2013, and for all products covered by the VPA on 1 January 2015.
  • A temporary exemption for products from small and medium furniture producers was introduced in late 2014 and was due to end on 31 December 2015. The exemption was extended indefinitely by a new export regulation issued in October 2015 by the Ministry of Trade which has hampered VPA implementation (see related question above).
  • The newest export regulation, issued in April 2016, as a revision to the Trade Regulation No. 89/2015, confirms that the SVLK applies to furniture products, in line with the product scope of the VPA.
  • As in all VPAs, the timber legality assurance system has the five essential components listed below. Civil society monitoring is also an integral part of Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system.
    • Legality definition: The legality definition clearly states the aspects of Indonesian law for which the timber legality assurance system will systematically seek evidence of compliance. Indonesia has different legality definitions for different kinds of rights and permit holdings
    • Supply chain control: The purpose of supply chain control is to ensure that unverified products do not enter the supply chain.
    • Verification of compliance: This detects whether timber products comply with the VPA’s legality definition and supply chain controls and are therefore legal. In Indonesia, independent private companies called Conformity Assessment Bodies (mandated by the Government of Indonesia and controlled by the national accreditation body, KAN) verify compliance with the legality definition. In Indonesia’s system, this is called ‘legality verification’ or ‘legality audit’). Some exemptions for small scale operators exist. Overall oversight remains the responsibility of the government.
    • FLEGT licensing: To date (November 2016), Indonesia has 22 FLEGT licensing authorities. The FLEGT licensing authorities issue FLEGT licences for consignments of timber products, if the verification system has evidence consignments are legally compliant. FLEGT licensing began on 15 November 2016.
    • Periodic evaluation: In Indonesia’s VPA, independent audit is termed ‘periodic evaluation’ to distinguish it from the independent Conformity Assessment Body audits mentioned above. The purpose of periodic evaluation is to regularly check that all aspects of a legality assurance system are working properly. An annex to the VPA provides terms of reference for the evaluator. Evaluations must take place no more than 12 months apart. The evaluator will produce reports for the Joint Implementation Committee and a public report. In other VPAs this independent evaluation function is called ‘independent audit’.

How does the timber legality assurance system work in Indonesia?

The VPA includes different legality standards for timber and timber products from different types of permits and rights holders. For each legality standard, the VPA lists criteria, indicators and verifiers that can be used to prove compliance. In addition, the underlying Indonesian legislation describes agreed upon verification methods. See Annex V of the VPA and the SILK website’s page on regulations.

  • Auditors called Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) verify the compliance of timber producers, traders, processors and exporters with the relevant legality standard. Operators that pass the audit are issued with a legality certificate.
  • The legality certificate is valid for three years for large companies and for up to ten years for small-scale operators or low risk operators. Surveillance visits take place every year (large companies) or every two years (small-scale operators or low risk operators).
  • Licensing authorities issue FLEGT licences to accompany each consignment of verified legal timber exports from registered operators that hold a valid legality certificate.
  • This assessment and licensing are continuously monitored and informed by civil society actors acting as independent monitors of the timber legality assurance system.
  • In addition ‘periodic evaluation’ (termed ‘independent audit’ in other VPAs) will assess the functioning of the legality assurance system at least once a year.
  • To get certified, timber-based industries, timber depots, traders including exporters, and small-scale privately owned (household or cooperative) forests must conform to the relevant legality standard.
  • An alternative procedure called Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity (SDoC) can be used to enter SVLK supply chains under certain conditions. This alternative procedure is only open to small and medium enterprises and smallholders who deal only with low-risk timber from privately-owned forests and/or SVLK-certified plantation timber from state-owned company (Perhutani).
  • A sustainability standard is also mandatory for state owned forests managed by companies (natural and plantation forest concessions). Companies must conform to this standard no later than the end of the three-year validity period of their first legality certificate.
  • All operators working on the basis of permits included in the VPA need to be SVLK certified (or provide a Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity), regardless of whether they export or place timber products on the domestic market. Only exporters need also to have a V-Legal Document for each consignment or a FLEGT licence if the export is destined to the EU (once FLEGT licensing starts).

Are public summaries of the independent SVLK audits available?

Yes. Public summaries of all audits and surveillance visits are available on the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s SILK website and the respective sites of the Conformity Assessment Bodies.

What is a Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity (SDoC)?

Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity is a procedure introduced under the SVLK in 2014 to enable small and medium enterprises and smallholders to access trade in legal timber as, previously, many of these operators found it hard to meet the costs and requirements of SVLK certification.

  • The Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity (SDoC, or DKP in Bahasa Indonesia) allows small and medium enterprises and smallholders to enter SVLK supply chains by declaring the origin and destination of their timber or timber products.
  • The use of SDoC is strictly restricted to the operators dealing exclusively with timber from privately-owned forests considered as low-risk timber, and/or SVLK-certified plantation timber from state-owned company (Perhutani).
  • The SDoC procedure entails internal checks carried out by the buyers of the timber and timber products covered by SDoC.
  • In case a certified operator buys timber covered by an SDoC, the auditor will verify that he/she carried out and documented these internal checks confirming the validity of the information declared by his/her supplier in the related SDoC.
  • Timber products covered by an SDoC cannot be exported directly. Only certified operators can get export licenses (V-Legal Document or FLEGT licences).
  • If a primary or secondary industry mixes SDoC declared timber with timber from state forests, the industry needs to hold SVLK certification.

What is legality verification of raw material (VLBB)?

VLBB (Verifikasi Legalitas Bahan Baku) is a transitional measure allowing SVLK-certified secondary industries or exporters to source timber products from industries which are not yet SVLK certified.

  • Under VLBB, the certification body ensures that timber or timber products supplied to its auditee all originate from SVLK verified sources (either SVLK certified or covered by SDoC) by checking on the not-yet SVLK-certified supplier.
  • This measure is time bound (until the end of 2017) and is strictly restricted to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It aims to allow SMEs to trade in legal timber before they can access SVLK certification.

How does the VPA deal with the wood Indonesia imports?

The Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry have developed regulations and procedures for verifying the legality of timber imports, with the participation of Ministry of Industry. The new legal requirements are reflected in the VPA, in its annex on the timber legality assurance system. See the SILK website’s page on import regulations.

  • Only designated importers (traders) and processing operators can import timber and/or timber products into Indonesia. They must hold information on due diligence procedures they apply to their imports to minimise the risk of illegal timber entering the Indonesian supply chain.
  • The information on due diligence procedures encompasses data collection, risk analysis and risk mitigation. Procedures are carried out using the SILK online system of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
  • The Ministry of Environment and Forestry issues an import recommendation to the Ministry of Trade after assessing each operators’ information on the due diligence process prior to import.
  • The operators must complete a declaration to provide information such as HS codes of products, bill of lading, countries of harvest, country of origin, proof of timber legality, and port of export.
  • Conformity Assessment Bodies carry out a document review of the due diligence system applied when conducting audits of the importing operator.
  • Detailed procedures for the due diligence system and related checks are provided in Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s timber legality assurance system guidelines and related import regulations by the Ministry of Trade such as the regulation of Director General of Sustainable Production Forest Management P7/PHPL-SET/2015.

Do companies that hold voluntary certification (such as FSC, PEFC or LEI) also have to follow the SVLK system?

Yes. Operators that hold voluntary certification will be subject to the same SVLK requirements as non-certified operators. All exporters need to get V- Legal Documents or FLEGT licences to export timber products.

  • Under SVLK, legality certification is mandatory for all operators dealing with timber from state forest. In addition, for all forest concessions on state-owned land (plantations or natural forests), sustainable forest management certification is mandatory and must be obtained, before the initial legality certification expires.
  • Under SVLK, legality certification is mandatory for all operators dealing with timber from state forest. In addition, for all large-scale operations on state-owned land (natural forest concessions or timber plantations), SFM certification is mandatory and must be obtained, at the latest, before the initial legality certification expires.
  • Operators dealing exclusively with low-risk timber from privately owned land or forest, and/or SVLK-certified certified plantation timber from state- owned company (Perhutani) can use the Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity (SDoC) mechanism to enter SVLK supply chains.
  • Note that an SVLK certificate is not the same as a V-Legal Document (or FLEGT licence), which is an export licence issued through the SVLK system.

Why do the VPA’s legality definition requirements appear less detailed compared to other VPAs ratified to date?

The SVLK implementing guidelines provide more detail than the VPA’s five legality standards. The EU has refrained from putting that much detail into the VPA, but made reference to these guidelines). The guidelines further separate the VPA’s five legality standards into ten standards and contain means of verification on verifier level. See Annex II of the VPA.

Part Three: How to recognise legal timber products from Indonesia

What is a V-Legal Document?

V-Legal Documents are Indonesian export licences attesting legality.

Companies that comply with the timber legality assurance system (SVLK) need to attach a V-Legal Document to their consignments for export to any international market. The V-Legal Document specifies that the timber products being shipped comply with the legality and/or sustainability standard and the supply chain control requirements as stipulated in Indonesian regulations and the VPA. Thus the V-Legal Document provides assurance that timber or timber products are legal. V-Legal Documents are issued by bodies authorised by the Indonesian government to act as licensing authorities.

When the timber legality assurance system is fully working as described in the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), Indonesia will issue V-Legal Documents as FLEGT licences for timber bound for the EU. See Annex IV of the VPA to see the format of the FLEGT licence.

What does the FLEGT licence from Indonesia look like and how does it differ from a V-Legal Document?

The FLEGT licence looks like the template in Annex III of the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). It looks similar to the V-Legal Document, but has ‘FLEGT licence’ clearly stated in the top right of the licence.

From 15 November 2016, the FLEGT licence replaced the V-Legal Document for exports to the EU of products listed in the VPA.

What is the difference between a V- Legal Document and the V-Legal logo?

A V-Legal Document is an export licence for legal timber products. The V- Legal logo is a mandatory logo on a timber product, product package, or document that demonstrates on-product compliance with the requirements in the SVLK system, either through SVLK certification or the SVLK Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity mechanism. On-product conformity marking is not required under the VPA.

Is SVLK enough to prove the legality of the wood?

Yes. SVLK is the name of Indonesia’s national timber legality assurance system, which is a mandatory certification system built on a national multistakeholder consensus. Under Indonesian law, SVLK certification and related documents (SVLK certificates and export licences called V-Legal Documents) constitute proof of legality for Indonesian timber products. Until the start of FLEGT licensing, Indonesian products with a V-Legal Document 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 is required.

Indonesia already has SVLK legality certification and export licences called V-Legal Documents. How do these relate to FLEGT licences? Are FLEGT licences better than V-Legal Documents?

Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system (SVLK) has been in force since 2013 and applies to all Indonesian operators and timber products. Before FLEGT licensing starts, the SVLK allows legality verification and attests to the legality of all Indonesian timber and timber products through the issuance of SVLK legality certificates and V-Legal Documents for exports. 

Under Indonesian law, SVLK certification and V-Legal Documents constitute a proof of legality for Indonesian timber products. A FLEGT licence will attest to the legality of Indonesian timber in exactly the same way as a V-Legal Document.  When Indonesia begins to issue FLEGT licences, they will replace V-Legal Documents for all exports to the EU of product types listed in the revised Annex I of the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

Indonesia will issue V-Legal Documents for exports to non-EU markets for the products covered in the VPA. The Indonesia-EU VPA Joint Implementation Committee serves as a joint monitoring and decision making body. The Joint Implementation Committee responds to any problems stakeholders bring to its attention, thereby contributing to continual improvement of VPA implementation.

What is the link between SVLK, FLEGT licensing and CITES in Indonesia?

Exports of products from species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) need both CITES documentation and the relevant export licence (V-Legal Document or FLEGT licence). Conformity Assessment Bodies verify CITES documentation during SVLK audits. The requirement is covered in the SVLK legality standards, except in the case of round logs or rough sawn timber as Indonesia prohibits exports of such products so they can never have CITES documentation nor be FLEGT licensed.

How are FLEGT licences issued?

Licensing authorities issue FLEGT licences to accompany consignments of verified legal timber that registered operators with valid legality certificate 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 the revised Annex V of the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA):  

To obtain a FLEGT licence, the exporter applies in writing to the licensing authority with which it holds a contract. The exporter attaches the following documents to demonstrate that the timber raw materials in the product originate only from verified legal sources:

  • A summary of the transport documents for all timber/raw materials received by the factory since the last audit (up to maximum of 12 months) 
  • Summaries of Timber/Raw Material Balance-Sheet Report, and Processed Timber Balance-Sheet Report since the last audit (up to maximum of 12 months) 

The licensing authority verifies the validity of the operator's legality certificate by reconciling the data provided and, where necessary, conducting a field visit to ensure consistency with the information to be specified in the FLEGT licence. 

For the licensing authority to issue a FLEGT licence, all suppliers in the exporter's supply chain that make up the consignment must have been covered by a valid legality or sustainable forest management certificate, or a Suppliers Declaration of Conformity (SDoC).

If the operator complies with legality and supply chain requirements, the licensing authority issues a FLEGT licence in the format presented in Annex IV of the VPA. If an operator does not comply with the legality and supply chain requirements, the licensing authority will issue a non-compliance report instead of a FLEGT licence. The non-compliance report halts the movement of the related timber and/or timber products.

Indonesia follows the same procedure to issue V-Legal Documents for exports to non-EU markets for the products covered in the VPA.

The licensing authority logs FLEGT licences in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s SILK system, which is linked to Indonesia’s online trade and customs systems to allow for fast approval of export and clearance of consignments. Competent authorities in EU Member States have access to SILK, or the licensing information unit (LIU), as regulated in the VPA.

Who are the Licensing Authorities?

Licensing authorities are independent organisations registered with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, which lists them on the SILK website.

Independent private certification bodies, called conformity assessment bodies (CABs), are accredited by the National Accreditation Committee (KAN) and mandated by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to carry out legality verification functions nationwide. To date (June 2016), 22 of the CABs have also been accredited and mandated as licensing authorities. 

The licensing authorities issue their customers (exporting companies) with V-Legal Documents, and in future will issue FLEGT licences, to accompany shipments of verified legal timber products exported to the EU. The licensing authorities are supervised by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and use the SILK online information management system managed by the Licence Information Unit (LIU). 

What is the Licence Information Unit?

The LIU is a service of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in charge of overseeing the licensing function. In the case of questions about a licence or a licensing authority, the LIU is the main source of information in Indonesia. Visit the SILK website for information on the licensing authorities and V-Legal Documents (and in future FLEGT licences) that have been issued.

How long does it take Indonesia to issue a FLEGT licence following an application from an exporter?

The lead time is three days for a licensing authority to issue a FLEGT licence after an application by an exporter, as set out in the SVLK Guidelines. Note that the licensing authority can only issue export licences (V-Legal Documents or FLEGT licences) to exporters that are SVLK certified.

How can EU competent authorities access relevant information on the FLEGT licences they receive?

EU competent authorities can access the SILK database managed by the Licence Information Unit (LIU) in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and can validate any information in the licence. If specific questions arise, the competent authorities can contact the LIU in Indonesia directly. Competent authorities need to sign a memorandum of understanding with the LIU. 

Will Indonesian port authorities stop a consignment from being exported if it has no FLEGT licence?

Indonesian 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, Indonesian port authorities shall stop (at port) consignments that lack V-Legal Documents.  

How can an EU operator be sure a FLEGT licence is genuine? Will Indonesia 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 using the Sistem Informasi Legalitas Kayu (SILK) online system operated by Indonesia’s Licence Information Unit (LIU).

The system generates a unique, secure barcode for each licence, and stores information about each licence in its database. SILK is a secure online system of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. It connects in real time directly with the secure INATRADE online system of the Ministry of Trade, and with the National Single Window Customs system of the Ministry of Finance.  

All licences are recorded in this system. Indonesian customs officials and EU competent authorities have direct access to the SILK system, 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 SILK system.

Once an EU competent authority confirms it has received a FLEGT-licensed consignment, SILK will automatically update the FLEGT licence’s record, ensuring that the same licence cannot be recorded again. The requirements and technical specifications of the FLEGT licence are described in Annex IV of the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

The Indonesian timber legality assurance system and the VPA also include powerful safeguards such as an independent audit (termed periodic evaluation), which aim to detect any systemic failures and report them to the VPA joint implementation committee (JIC). In Indonesia civil society also plays a crucial role in carrying out independent observation (or independent monitoring) and informing organisations and decision makers about potential individual frauds and system loopholes.

Part Four: Outcomes of the VPA

How will the impacts of the VPA be monitored?

The EU and Indonesia made a joint commitment to monitor the social, economic and environmental effects of the agreement.

  • VPA impact monitoring: The Joint Implementation Committee established a multistakeholder technical working group to develop and test a national VPA impact monitoring system. The Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) is responsible for endorsing the system. By early 2016, the initial system was developed with inputs from stakeholders from all over Indonesia. Once operational the VPA impact monitoring system will inform the JIC about any corrective measures to be taken to mitigate possible adverse impacts.
  • Independent Market Monitoring: The European Commission has appointed the International Tropical Timber Organization as the FLEGT Independent Market Monitor for all VPA countries. The market monitor will assess the trade in timber products between Indonesia and the EU, and the impacts of FLEGT licensing on this trade. A baseline report was published in 2015.

How does the VPA benefit Indonesia?

The VPA will bring economic, social and environmental benefits to Indonesia.

  • The VPA will strengthen the market position of verified-legal timber products in the EU and elsewhere.
  • FLEGT-licensed timber will automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation so will be exempt from any due diligence assessment process, saving time and money. This will increase EU importer confidence in Indonesian timber products and make their products more attractive compared with products without FLEGT licences.
  • The VPA will increase government revenues by blocking access to export and domestic markets for illegal operators who do not pay appropriate taxes and fees.
  • The VPA will make it easier for Indonesia to manage forest resources in a sustainable way notably through better monitoring and data.
  • The VPA will help smallholders and small or medium enterprises to gain international market access.
  • The VPA will raise the international profile of Indonesia as it will highlight Indonesia’s efforts to improve transparency and governance in one of its main economic sectors.

How has the Indonesia-EU VPA improved forest governance?

The VPA has improved accountability, transparency, participation, technical and human capacity, legislative clarity and other aspects of forest governance.

  • Participatory decision-making: The level of stakeholder participation in the VPA process in unprecedented. Representatives of civil society and the private sector participated in the negotiations and have seats in the Joint Implementation Committee. The VPA process 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. Stakeholder consultations are increasingly becoming a standard for the development of legislation in the forestry sector.
  • Enhanced capacity: The VPA process has strengthened the capacity of government, private sector and civil society stakeholders to work together to address illegality in Indonesia’s forest sector. To strengthen capacity for SVLK at all levels, training has been provided to nearly 15,000 local government supervisors, sustainable forest management technicians, staff at regional forests management offices and heads of villages. However, given the size of the country, and the scale and variety of timber sector operations, more capacity building is still needed.
  • Transparency: The VPA includes an annex on public disclosure of information that lists the information the Government of Indonesia commits to making available, in line with Indonesia’s freedom of information act. During VPA negotiations, civil society representatives requested that the annex ensures that they have access to data that enables meaningful independent monitoring. This access has recently been granted. Requests for information are progressively being met as transparency improves.
  • Legislative clarity and reform: The VPA process has made legality in the forest sector much clearer in Indonesia. More than 900 laws and regulations applied to the forest sector at the start of the VPA. Multistakeholder processes in Indonesia identified a subset of laws and regulations that together provided a legality definition that met their immediate interests. The VPA provides indicators, verifiers and verification measures that auditors working for Conformity Assessment Bodies must use to assess legality. The SVLK is based on a national regulation, introduced in 2009. Amendments to that regulation in 2011-2015 reflect stakeholder views and VPA requirements. This represents a major reform of the law as it allows for independent oversight of the entire forest sector by professional audit companies (Conformity Assessment Bodies and the periodic evaluator) and civil society.

Is the VPA fair to small-scale operators in the sector?

Indonesia has provided direct support and introduced new measures to help small-scale operators comply with the VPA, including through revisions to the SVLK regulation.

  • These measures include options to apply for group SVLK certification or to use, under certain circumstances, a self-declaration of legality called a Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity.
  • In addition to nationwide awareness campaigns, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry launched in 2015 a programme to accelerate the certification of small and medium enterprises and smallholders, joining efforts by the Ministry of Industry. The programme has deployed focal points in 18 provinces and developed a database to monitor progress in group certification.

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.

  • Corruption is considered to be a special crime in the Indonesian legal system which requires the KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission) or the Attorney General’s office to determine that a corruption crime has been committed and individual suspect(s) named.
  • Within this context, SVLK cannot be expected to become a rigorous anti-corruption tool by revoking licences of companies or industries whose executives have been suspected or convicted of corruption. This is because the legal subjects in this crime are individuals, not institutions. SVLK is an administrative certification procedure, not a legal measure that determines the status of a company. As companies are often established by several shareholders and owners, the status of the company will be determined by these shareholders. However, if a company was identified as using corruption it would lose its SVLK certificate and would not be able to receive V-Legal Documents/FLEGT licences.
  • However, KPK or the Attorney General’s office may use findings generated by the timber legality assurance system for prosecution in corruption cases.

How does the VPA protect community rights?

The Indonesian government’s commitment to protect and promote community rights is reflected in Article 12 of the VPA, on ‘social safeguards’.

  • This is a commitment by both parties to monitor the impacts of the VPA implementation in the long term including its impact on livelihoods and vulnerable groups.
  • In addition, the SVLK contains a special legality standard for timber from permit areas for community or private forest plantation, community forest management, and village forest management.

How does the VPA deal with the rights of indigenous peoples?

The rights of indigenous peoples are mentioned in one of the articles of Indonesia’s SVLK regulation.

  • The VPA (as well as the SVLK) refer to the ruling by Indonesia’s constitutional court, stating “Changes in the procedures for utilization and / or administration of timber from Customary Forests, to address implementation of Constitutional Court Decision (MK) No. 35/PUU- X/2012, shall be introduced after the adoption of related implementing legislation.” This could happen by, for instance, categorising land of indigenous peoples as privately-owned forest (communal ownership) or by developing specific legality standards.
  • In the case of overlap with an existing concession, by law, once legally recognised, the areas shall be excluded from the concession. The concessionaire may cooperate with indigenous peoples to manage such areas (with clear benefit-sharing and management plan).
  • Under the Sustainable Forest Management standard of the SVLK, communities surrounding concessions (including surrounding indigenous peoples) are required to be part of the free, prior informed consent process.

How does the VPA address conversion of forests, such as for agriculture?

Within the VPA, the timber legality assurance system is intended to ensure that timber and timber products originating from forests/lands can be traded nationwide or exported only if verified-legal.

  • The timber legality assurance system does not address the land allocation process and decisions about forest conversion. However, the right to use timber originating from natural forest conversion is regulated by the SVLK and a specific legality standard in the VPA.
  • Certification audits ensure that the conversion activities have been lawful, based on an environmental impact assessment and the correct forest classification, and that timber extraction is in compliance with the related technical and social legal requirements.
  • The most recent version of SVLK regulation made SVLK certification a pre-condition for any new permits for the use of timber from converted forests (IPK/IPHHK permits). Any operator applying for an IPK/IPHHK permit must demonstrate that they are engaged in a SVLK certification process. SVLK certification on IPK/IPHHK permits covers field assessment and one surveillance visit after six months (IPK permits are usually only valid for one year).
  • However, if no timber is (legally) sold or commercially traded from a conversion area there will be no application for an IPK/IPHHK permit and the conversion area will therefore not be part of any SVLK controls. In fact, nowadays, the amount of IPK/IPHHK timber is relatively small.
  • Other initiatives or processes in Indonesia, such as REDD+, address more specifically the issue of deforestation and natural forest conversion.
  • Changes from natural forests to forest plantations are not classified as forest conversion under Indonesian law. They are dealt with under the VPA legality standard for forest plantations.

Are there any areas or contexts in Indonesia in which the risk for illegal timber to be laundered would increase?

Under a strict implementation of the SVLK there should not be any permit type or area in Indonesia where the risk for illegal timber to enter into supply chains is higher, since the system provides for higher verification intensity (more frequent audits and stricter legal requirements for natural forests) in contexts where illegal logging could occur more frequently.

  • However, the risk may be greater in areas where numerous conversion operations take place, in particular if such areas are not (yet) SVLK-certified. Note that SVLK certified operators can only deal with SVLK timber, or need to apply clear separation/segregation if they also receive impounded timber (products made from impounded timber cannot be exported). The source of timber is one of the verifiers the SVLK auditor will check in the first audit and in every surveillance audit, or in the case of a complaint filed by independent monitor(s).
  • The introduction of the Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity procedure allows all operators along the supply chain, apart from exporters, to produce, process and trade timber products without being SVLK certified.
  • But this specific procedure applies only to timber and timber products originating from privately-owned forests and lands, considered to be low- risk sources. As soon as a company has a timber supply originating from natural forests, this company must be SVLK-certified. Timber species planted/growing in privately owned forests are easily recognizable.
  • If an exporter, or another SVLK-certified company, uses “SDoC timber”, the Conformity Assessment Body will check that this operator has verified the information declared by its direct supplier(s), through field inspections when needed.
  • Thus the main risk for illegal timber to be traded probably lies in cases where the whole supply chain is not SVLK certified i.e. timber/timber products being traded exclusively in the domestic market. Consistency of the data declared along the supply chain will be checked by the Periodic Evaluator (termed ‘independent auditor’ in other VPAs) after FLEGT licensing has started. A new online data management system will also help to capture timber flows in almost real time. Indonesia has issued a public procurement policy that will also promote SVLK use in the domestic market.

Part Five: Ensuring effective VPA implementation

What if problems emerge? Who has oversight of the VPA?

A Joint Implementation Committee (EU-Indonesia) oversees implementation of the VPA and will respond to any concerns about problems in implementation as they arise. Implementation therefore improves as it proceeds. See Article 14 of the VPA.

  • The VPA also gives Indonesian civil society organisations, individuals and communities a role as independent monitors as an integral part of Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system. This gives civil society unprecedented oversight of private sector and government performance. See Annex V of the VPA.
  • Independent monitors can report if SVLK audits are flawed or if companies do not comply with the Indonesian legality standard. They can file complaints about operators, audit companies, government agencies, the independent periodic evaluator, the licensing authorities or the accreditation body.
  • The ‘periodic evaluator’ in the Indonesian VPA (termed ‘independent auditor’ in other VPAs), will regularly assess whether the timber legality assurance system functions as described in the VPA and will report to the Joint Implementation Committee. See Annex VI of the VPA.

How does the VPA address grievances?

The VPA includes a mechanism to resolve grievances. Under the agreement, stakeholders in the forestry sector in Indonesia can raise issues with the EU-Indonesia Joint Implementation Committee through the Periodic Evaluator or by putting matters of concern on the agenda for Joint Implementation Committee meetings.

Who is the periodic evaluator?

The periodic evaluator is an independent evaluator (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 periodic evaluator reports findings to the Indonesia-EU Joint Implementation Committee.

  • A specific annex in the VPA describes the status, skills and tasks of the periodic evaluator. The team assigned to carry out periodic evaluation shall not be directly engaged in the TLAS implementation and demonstrate auditing experience. See Annex VI of the VPA.
  • Indonesia recruited the periodic evaluator in consultation with the EU. The process to appoint the periodic evaluator started in early 2015 and ended in December 2015 with the signing of a first and renewable one-year contract by PT Sucofindo - SBU LSI.

Who are the independent monitors?

The VPA defines independent monitors and their rights and responsibilities. The VPA states that Indonesian civil society organisations, communities and individuals can act as independent monitors of the timber legality assurance system. The corresponding SVLK regulation details the independent monitors’ tasks and their access to information.

  • To perform this task, Indonesian civil society organizations formed an independent forestry monitoring network (JPIK – Jaringan Pemantau Independen Kehutanan) whose members include more than 300 individuals and 60 organisations.
  • Civil society organisations in Sumatra also established an independent forestry monitoring association (APIKS – Asosiasi Pemantau Independen Kehutanan Sumatera), with more than 80 individual and 20 organisational members.
  • Other civil society networks, such as the Anti Forest-Mafia Coalition (Koalisi Anti Mafia Hutan) and Eyes on the Forests also conduct forest monitoring.
  • Individuals can also act as independent monitors.

What complaints have independent monitors made and what were the outcomes?

Until June 2015, 38 formal monitoring missions have been carried out by independent monitors leading to 13 complaints in 2014. One of these complaints filed to KAN (Indonesia’s National Accreditation Body) led to the revocation of the accreditation of one Conformity Assessment Body in November 2013.

What will happen to FLEGT licensed timber that is shown to be illegal?

If a FLEGT-licensed shipment is reported to be illegal in Indonesia before it leaves the country, the relevant licensing authority shall cancel the licence, which will stop the shipment. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry, through its Licensing Information Unit, can also tell the relevant licensing authority to cancel the licence, which will stop the shipment.

  • If a FLEGT-licensed shipment is proven to be illegal in Indonesia after it leaves the country, the Licensing Information Unit would inform the relevant EU Competent Authority. If the Licensing Information Unit can contact the EU Competent Authority before the shipment is released by Customs in the EU, the shipment would be seized and would not be placed on the EU market.
  • Enforcement actions would be taken against the companies involved in the production and trade of the related timber in Indonesia. Authorities in the EU may also take action against the importer(s).
  • If the Licensing Information Unit can only contact the relevant EU Competent Authority after the FLEGT licensed timber has been released by customs in the EU, the Competent Authority would investigate and try to intercept the timber. Both Indonesia and the relevant EU member state would take enforcement actions against implicated companies.

What happens when the legality assurance system fails to detect illegal timber?

If and when illegal timber is shown to have passed through Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system undetected, this will provide opportunities to strengthen the system to avoid a reoccurrence of the breach.

  • The VPA is part of a holistic yet gradual improvement of forest governance in Indonesia.
  • The VPA will not eliminate illegal logging overnight.
  • The timber legality assurance system is adaptive and subject to continuous improvement, informed by regular reports from SVLK auditors, independent monitors, and the periodic evaluator.
  • The Joint Implementation Committee conducts the oversight of the agreement and will take remedial actions if systematic failures are identified.