Vietnam’s VPA implementation progresses as stakeholders meet

First Joint Preparatory Committee meeting. Image: FLEGT

The third meeting of the multistakeholder group set up to support implementation of the EU-Vietnam Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on forest law enforcement, governance and trade took place on 8 March 2018 in Hanoi.

Participants discussed how the group will operate, what tools and approaches it will use to communicate internally and externally, and possible joint activities by its members in 2018. They also discussed methodologies and tools for monitoring VPA implementation and impacts, including independent forest governance monitoring by civil society.

The Multi-Stakeholder Core Group’s members include representatives of Vietnamese industry associations, professional associations, non-governmental organisations, research institutes and government agencies. Currently its co-chairs are Nguyen Van Ha of the Vietnam Administration of Forestry (VNFOREST) and To Kim Lien of the Centre for Education and Development.

The multistakeholder group’s role is to foster effective communication, provide feedback on the implementation of the VPA, and propose issues for the EU and Vietnam to consider in meetings of their joint bodies.

At the Hanoi meeting, Nguyen Tuong Van, Deputy Director of VNFOREST’s Department of Science and Technology and International Cooperation, provided an update on the VPA process, including priorities for 2018.

Vietnam and the EU initialled the VPA in May 2017 and they expect to ratify it by the end of 2018. In the interim, they have set up a Joint Preparation Committee, co-chaired by Vietnam and the EU. The Committee will oversee activities intended to ensure a smooth transition to full implementation when the VPA enters into force.

When the Committee met for the first time on 17 November 2017 in Hanoi, it endorsed a Joint Implementation Framework and agreed to make it public. The Framework, developed through a multistakeholder process, includes actions and milestones in eight strategic areas, from the development of Vietnam’s timber legality assurance system (VNTLAS) to capacity building and stakeholder engagement.

It also frames the national and bilateral arrangements and structures that will support VPA implementation together with Vietnam’s national stakeholders, and includes a tool for monitoring progress.

The Committee has agreed on a roadmap of priority actions for 2018. These include doing preparatory work for establishing the VNTLAS, developing an information and communication strategy and action plan for public disclosure, and producing and disseminating information to explain the VPA to domestic and international audiences.

The EU and Vietnam have also set up a structure called the Joint Expert Meeting. It will convene periodically and provide support on technical matters relating to VPA implementation to the Joint Preparation Committee and to the Joint Implementation Committee that succeeds it when the Parties ratify the VPA.

The second meeting of the Joint Preparatory Committee is scheduled for mid-2018.