The following principles explain the philosophy behind Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) and how they differ from typical trade agreements.
A VPA is voluntary, but legally binding. The EU and a timber-exporting country choose to enter into a VPA process. If ratified, a VPA binds both the EU and the partner country.
A VPA is participatory and reflects a national consensus. To ensure a VPA is credible and meets market expectations, the EU advocates that the private sector, civil society organisations and, where possible, local communities participate throughout a VPA process.
A VPA is practical and results-oriented. A VPA produces robust, transparent and feasible solutions to problems identified by stakeholders.
A VPA is transparent. Negotiations on trade agreements often take place behind closed doors. VPA negotiations take place with minimal secrecy.
A VPA is more than a trade agreement. A VPA also aims to promote social and environmental sustainability.
A VPA promotes good governance. A VPA aims to improve transparency, accountability and law enforcement, and to strengthen the rights of people who depend on forests.
A VPA is country-owned. Stakeholder engagement ensures national ownership of a VPA and that it works in the national context.A VPA process is flexible. The VPA process is open to ideas and solutions, and adapts to the realities and goals of each partner. There is no blueprint and no strict deadline for concluding a VPA.
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]
Othman, M. et al. 2012. FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements. ETFRN News 53: 109-116. [Download PDF]
Pearce, F. 2012. Forest Stands: How New EU Trade Laws Help Countries Protect Both Forests and Peoples. FERN. 24pp. [Download PDF]