Thailand sets up new institutions to manage the VPA process
The first joint expert meeting between the Kingdom of Thailand and the EU took place in Bangkok on 13–14 November. Experts from Thailand and the EU met with stakeholders from government agencies, civil society and the private sector to discuss the upcoming negotiations, other institutional aspects of the Thai VPA process and steps to develop a Thai legality definition, a key element of the VPA.
During the meeting, Thailand decided to establish a VPA Secretariat. The Royal Forest Department in Bangkok will provide office space for the VPA Secretariat.
Thailand formed an ad hoc working group to develop its definition of timber legality, a building block of the VPA. Members of the legality definition working group come from government agencies, civil society, the private sector and legal/forestry experts groups. The working group is scheduled to meet regularly from January 2014. The group will prepare a draft of the legality definition for Thai stakeholders to review before taking a draft legality definition to the negotiation table.
To help engage civil society in the VPA process, RECOFTC (Center for People and Forests) hosted the fifth CSO workshop on FLEGT and VPA at Kasetsart University, Bangkok, on 1–2 December. The meeting was the fifth in a series of workshops held in Thailand this year to inform forest advocacy and smallholder groups about the VPA process. At the December meeting, representatives of civil society organisations in Indonesia (EIA), Laos (Village Focus International) and Vietnam (Sustainable Rural Development) shared their experiences with VPA processes with their Thai counterparts. Thai participants also discussed among themselves revisions to their draft position paper and their representation in the ad hoc working group on the legality definition.