Vietnam and EU chart course to conclude VPA negotiations

A series of activities underway in Vietnam have taken the country closer towards concluding its VPA.

Negotiators from the EU and Vietnam discussed progress and updated the VPA negotiation roadmap during a videoconference on 10 December. Vietnam's negotiator outlined the country's intentions for further consultations and drafting of the VPA annexes necessary to conclude negotiations during 2014. The two parties also discussed the next steps for verifying the legality of origin of imported timber.

Independent experts reviewed the implementation of Vietnam's Forest Protection and Development Law with support from Germany, Japan and members of the Vietnamese NGO FLEGT Network, including the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD). The review included surveys and consultations with stakeholders. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) will use these findings in its consideration of a request for a formal review of Vietnam's forest law.

The first phase of the livelihood impact assessment concluded in November with a three-day workshop to analyse the possible effects of VPA implementation on vulnerable groups, and to identify measures to mitigate adverse impacts and enhance positive ones. During the workshop, members of the Vietnamese NGO FLEGT Network discussed their forest governance concerns and VPA interests with participating senior officers of the Administration of Forestry, VNFOREST.

Vietnam's top prosecutor's office, the Supreme People's Procuracy, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) held a workshop on good governance and transnational organised crime in the forest sector in Hanoi on 14 October. UNODC presented its assessment of the capacity of Vietnam's criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute violations of forest laws. It revealed findings from its study on transnational organised crime in the region. Attendees at the workshop from law enforcement agencies, including the Forest Protection Department, police and customs, also discussed challenges and solutions to forest crime.

Also in Hanoi in October, the UN and MARD held a national inception workshop for the second phase of the country's work on REDD+ with the UN-REDD Programme. The second phase was launched in July and will run until December 2015 in six pilot provinces at a cost of US$30 million. The programme has the potential to strengthen FLEGT-related initiatives such as the dialogue on timber trade and legality between Vietnam and its trading partners in the region. The UN-REDD Vietnam Phase II programme includes support for the five countries of the Lower Mekong region (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) to work together on REDD+.