Indonesia’s FLEGT process at risk of failure at the last hurdle

The last-minute cancellation of a public dialogue on Indonesia’s Timber Legality Assurance System (SVLK) at the IFEX 2016 furniture show in Jakarta has sparked concerns that the country’s FLEGT process will come to naught after a decade of negotiations with EU representatives.

The March event, organised by the Multi-stakeholder Forestry Programme (MFP) team in Jakarta, was called off by Dyandra Promosindo, organisers of IFEX 2016—apparently on the orders of the furniture association AMKRI.

“In Indonesia SVLK is under government policy and has been perfected for the past 10 years, with the specific aim of keeping Indonesia’s forests sustainable, and to bolster Indonesia’s timber and wood products’ bargaining position in the global market,” according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

“We strongly regret that IFEX does not support government policy concerning SVLK assurance, which means that IFEX also does not support the protection of sustainability for Indonesia’s precious forests.”

The press release demanded the organisers issue a public apology or face court proceedings. It also stated that AMKRI said SVLK puts small furniture and handicraft enterprises at a disadvantage when in reality, 93% of all active Indonesian furniture exporters are already SVLK certified.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the MFP said they were surprised by this action inspired by a small group of self-interested parties, backed by AMKRI. This puts Indonesia at risk of “[tripping] at a hurdle 50 metres from the finish for no good reason after running a long marathon.”       

Indonesia was one of the first countries to start negotiating a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU and was the first Asian country to initiate a VPA, yet to be implemented.

When the EU introduced its EU Timber Regulations (EUTR) under the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan in March 2013 it was warned that including furniture would pose problems for small producers and for those making furniture with composite and various materials.

Recently the Indonesian Minister of Trade re-confirmed that SVLK would not be required for furniture – a surprise to most people. That is now in the process of being reversed by the Trade Ministry over the next few months.