Lao People’s Democratic Republic hosts ASEAN training workshop on timber legality assurance

About 70 participants from nine Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, India and the EU attended a workshop on timber legality assurance systems held in Vientiane, Laos, from 22 to 24 October 2014. This is the fourth training event of its kind in the ASEAN region since 2010. Laos is starting to negotiate a VPA with the EU, making its hosting of the event timely. The Government of Laos, the ASEAN Secretariat, and the EU FLEGT Facility co-organised the workshop.

This regional meeting advanced several goals for strengthening timber legality assurance and forest governance in South East Asia. 

‘Timber producing and processing countries in ASEAN are all connected through their timber supply chains,' said Dian Sukmajaya of the Agriculture Industries and Natural Resources Division of the ASEAN Secretariat. ‘Timber products destined for markets with legality requirements often use timber harvested from one ASEAN country that is processed in another. This makes cooperation among ASEAN member states ever more important. At the same time these timber legality frameworks will also facilitate meeting the growing wood products demand within the ASEAN region. This initiative is relevant to the effort to enhance the competitiveness of ASEAN forest products and to gain global market access for the benefit of people in the region.'

The workshop built the capacity of forest stakeholders on timber legality assurance systems, gave them the opportunity to exchange experiences, especially regarding negotiating and implementing VPAs, and it increased collaboration among agencies and stakeholder groups. Each ASEAN member state delegation included government officials and leaders in the private sector and civil society.

Each country gave an update on the progress of timber legality assurance and FLEGT-related activities in their countries. Technical experts gave presentations on:

• international activities to promote timber legality and good governance
• concepts and lessons learnt on the different approaches to timber legality assurance
• regional initiatives on forestry and timber legality assurance in ASEAN 
• private sector views from India

The participants exchanged experiences in four working groups focusing on small and medium size enterprises, imports, stakeholder support, communication challenges and civil society engagement. Recommendations from the working groups will be included in the workshop report. Each group came with a set of recommendations for ASEAN's regional work on timber legality assurance.

‘Implementing timber legality assurance is essential to ensure good forest management and responsible timber trade,' said Alexander Hinrichs of the EU FLEGT Facility. ‘The EU has worked to increase the demand for legal timber in its markets while working bilaterally with a number of ASEAN member states in recent years on this topic.'

Nine ASEAN member states attended the meeting: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines and Brunei. Five of the countries are engaged in VPA processes. Indonesia is implementing its VPA with the EU, and Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are negotiating VPAs.