Myanmar: Goal of joining FLEGT-VPA within sight

In Myanmar, multiple stakeholders hailing from all states and regions of the sprawling nation have come together to set up an executive committee that will lead the negotiations to join the Forest Law, Enforcement, Governance and Trade, Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT-VPA), led by the European Union (EU).

The EU first officially agreed to invite Myanmar to take part in the FLEGT-VPA preparation phase in March 2014, with the EU-Myanmar FLEGT-VPA preparation phase inception workshop held in January the following year in Mandalay city

The EUFLEGT webpage states that the agreement aids members in fighting illegal logging while also strengthening forest governance and advocating for sustainable economic development in nations that produce or process timber for exportation to the EU.

Benefits of joining the FLEGT-VPA are threefold; timber’s authenticity is guaranteed with a defined framework, better cooperation is allowed with the development of a tracking system for the trade of timber, and forestry management is also improved.

According to The Myanmar Times, Ko Zaw Thura, chief sustainability officer (CSO) of the Union Interim Working Group said that the executive committee will be made up of civil society actors, entrepreneurs, and government officials, and will likely be formed by January 2018 at the latest.

“Private businessmen are nearly ready and the government is also ready. If we manage to finish, the three-party committees will be ready for December or next January,” Ko Zaw Thura said. “The main thing is that we need to further educate the citizens. We deal with resource sharing, so it’s also intertwined with peace process. Indeed, the majority of trees and forests are located within borders and ethnic regions. Their cooperation is essential.”

But if the EU and Myanmar are to become trade partners, an insurance system to certify that the timber exported is legal needs to be implemented. And according to Ko Zaw Thura, developing such an arrangement will need to take two to three years.

“If we create an insurance system, then we can engage trade not only with the EU, but also with other nations. To ensure that the timber is legal, many points need to be discussed, such as land use. We also have to discuss license fees,” Ko Zaw Thura added. “It took Indonesia ten years to get the official license. Their model is the best; they keep their people informed. People can also investigate and report on the matter. There is a right to sell timber even at the district level.”

Paramount is the understanding of local timber production among the local population along with the government’s systemic verification of timber, according to The Myanmar Times.

Since 2016, Myanmar has banned the production of timber, save the Kyunhla township in the Sagaing Region, due to a dramatically reduced forest coverage from 1975 to 2010 from illegal timber production and other related activities.

“There are challenges as even the Forest Draft Bill issued by the government doesn’t have an accurate definition of the term ‘Forest’,” Ko Zaw Thura concluded.


Source: The Myanmar Times