Civil society representatives from the forest sector bring experience and questions to the EU Parliament
On 9 October the high-level event "Guardians of the Forest?" was hosted by FERN and the European Parliament, with the participation of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Yannick Jadot and Fiona Hall. The conference aimed to explore 10 years of European Union innovation and achievements in worldwide forest governance and the challenges that lie ahead. EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, delivered the keynote speech which emphasised his enthusiasm for FLEGT, 'If used in the correct way [VPAs] are a central piece of the puzzle to fight poverty by ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth.'
The conference examined the history of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, and explored lessons for the future. To look at challenges and achievements to date from the FLEGT VPA process from the different perspectives, the conference brought together Commission officials, representatives from the EU Timber Trade Federation, international NGOs and civil society representatives from 12 countries negotiating or implementing bilateral Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs). Liberia's Matthieu Thee Walley, a community representative, explained, ‘The VPA has played a key role in strengthening the voice of communities and NGOs in national level decision making.'
A new report by journalist Fred Pearce, ‘Forest Stands' was also presented during the event. According to Pearce, VPAs are a ‘template for ensuring civil society engagement and changing the balance of power'.