One of the great glories of Indonesia is the magnificent forests that spread across the archipelago. I had the privilege of taking a helicopter ride above some protected forests near Pekanbaru a few months ago, which will be one of my abiding memories of this country. But Indonesia’s forests are under threat. This week the EU and Indonesia took a small but significant step together in the fight against deforestation and illegal logging.
Ten years ago we had a big problem – too much timber was being logged illegally in Indonesia, and too much of this illegal timber was finding its way to the EU market. Indonesia appealed to the international community for support in fighting this threat to the forests. The EU responded to the call.
Gradually, and painstakingly, over the last ten years or so the EU and Indonesia have been putting in place measures to achieve two objectives: fighting illegal logging in Indonesia; and promoting trade in legally certified timber. On the EU side we have passed the EU Timber Regulation, which forces companies in the EU to make sure they are only dealing in legal wood. On the Indonesian side, the government has put in place the SVLK (Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu), which will apply to all parts of the timber industry and makes sure that there is legal certification for wood from the moment it is cut down in the forest, through processing and manufacturing (into paper or furniture, for example), right up to the point where it is shipped overseas and sold to buyers in Europe and other countries.
Last year we signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement or VPA, which puts the Indonesian and EU systems together. As soon as the systems are ready, the EU will recognise the SVLK and give all Indonesian legally certified timber products a special “FLEGT” licence, which will show the EU market that Indonesian timber meets the very highest standards of legality. Indonesian timber without a FLEGT licence will not be admitted to the EU market. Indonesia could be the first country in the world to get these FLEGT licences, which should give Indonesia a real market advantage, as buyers and consumers in the EU and elsewhere are increasingly demanding that the timber products they use are legal and not leading to illegal logging.
Who will decide when the systems are ready? This will be a joint decision between Indonesia and the EU, which will be taken by a Joint Implementation Committee which includes key stakeholders from both sides – government, industry and civil society. This week, the Joint Implementation Committee met for the first time. We are now gearing up over the coming months to put the final steps in place to launch FLEGT licensing. If we can complete these final steps, Indonesia will be seen as a world leader in timber legality – a remarkable turnaround. There is much more to be done to safeguard Indonesia’s forests, of course – but the timber industry is playing its part.