VPA country stakeholders
In Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) processes, national stakeholders include companies involved in the timber trade, governments, civil society organisations and communities. Opinions about VPAs and what they should achieve differ within and among these broad groups of stakeholders (see box ‘Differing priorities affect stakeholders' opinions of VPAs').
Differing aspirations may affect how stakeholders view a potential VPA
Stakeholder priorities differ both among and within government, the private sector and civil society stakeholder groups. Ministries of finance and forestry may for instance disagree about what a VPA can offer. The following are some of the things members of each broad group may aspire to:
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A VPA process must enable stakeholders to participate and voice their concerns if it is to result in a credible agreement that can be realistically implemented and that balances the needs of different stakeholders. However, stakeholders vary with respect to:
- How well they are organised
- How well they understand a VPA
- How well information flows among them
- How inclusive or representative they are of the group as a whole
- How easy it is to reach them
- How willing they are to engage
Governments also vary in their willingness to engage with other stakeholders.
Some VPA stakeholders are also rights holders. These are people whose legally protected rights a VPA could affect. Rights holders may include members of forest communities and/or indigenous people. The rights they hold under national or international law may include rights to consultation or rights to free, prior informed consent.
Government stakeholders are those involved in setting policy and enforcing legislation that directly or indirectly relates to forests. They include:
- National, provincial and local authorities involved in forest control and forest enforcement
- Customs officers
- Finance and tax representatives
- Environment, health and labour officers responsible for enforcing legislation
- Justice department representatives
- Trade and industry representatives
- Foreign affairs representatives
Governments operate at many levels and have a diversity of interests. Government champions for a VPA process may be outside the forestry sector. For example, a finance ministry may engage with a VPA process because of concerns about revenue losses in the timber sector. Law enforcement agencies may offer support because a VPA would weaken criminal groups. However, some government representatives may also oppose a VPA because efforts to improve the sector would reduce their power base or cut off informal sources of revenue.
Read more in the section of VPA Unpacked on national government stakeholders.
Private-sector stakeholders include companies and individuals that profit from the forest sector. They include:
- Owners and holders of forest concessions or titles, such as private permit holders, plantation owners, communities and households
- Processing companies
- Timber transporting companies and traders
- Buyers/sellers/importers/exporters of timber and timber products
- The informal sector
- Artisans, such as furniture makers
The private sector is a broad group that includes stakeholders with markedly different agendas, perspectives and levels of support for a VPA.
Read more in the section of VPA Unpacked on national private-sector stakeholders.
Civil society stakeholders include people whose lives and livelihoods are linked to forests and affected by forest policy, and organisations whose interests in forests relate to wider issues such as poverty, rights or the environment. Civil society stakeholders include:
- Forest communities or people who depend on forests
- Indigenous peoples
- Traditional authorities
- Civil society organisations that advocate for forest-related issues or human rights
- Environmental organisations
- Labour unions
In some VPA countries, indigenous peoples prefer to form their own groupings rather than join broader civil society platforms.
Read more in the section of VPA Unpacked on national civil society stakeholders.
Some stakeholders may belong to more than one of the broad categories of government, private sector or civil society. They include:
- Local community and household-based producers
- Workers in timber, timber transport or timber processing companies
- Customary or elected political representatives, including traditional authorities, parliamentarians, and local and regional representatives
- University representatives or researchers related to the forest sector and timber trade
For example, workers may express grievances more openly in a civil society platform than in a meeting with their private-sector employer. Similarly, household-based producers may relate more to other community members than to large-scale private operators.
Related sections of VPA Unpacked
Duffield, L. and Ozinga, S. 2014. Making Forestry Fairer. A Practical Guide for Civil Society Organisations Taking Part in VPA Negotiations. FERN. 68pp. [Download PDF]