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Jakarta Post

Indonesia now in forefront of legal timber governance

Jakarta   /   Fri, November 25, 2016   /  08:42 am
Indonesia now in forefront of legal timber governance A misty morning is pictured in the rainforest of Central Kalimantan — a source of clean air, regulator of climate and home to thousands of plant and animal species including the now critically endangered Bornean orangutan. (Greenpeace/Ulet Ifansasti)

Who would have known that Indonesia, once infamously known for its rampant illegal logging, would today be in the forefront of forest law enforcement and trade?

Last week, in the early hours of Nov. 15, as people from around the world – myself included — were convening the United Nations Convention on Climate Change at the 22nd Conference of Parties ( COP22 ) in Marrakech, Indonesia on its own home front issued the world’s very first Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (or FLEGT) licenses.

In fact, 36 licenses were issued in those first two hours while I was away. They were for timber products whose companies had queued up patiently to get the very first licenses on that historic date.

As it happened, Nov. 15 came and went without much fanfare, but for forest governance, not to mention maintaining forest sustainability for a very long future, it was a redletter date for Indonesia.

For FLEGT licensing by Indonesia means that, for the first time ever, the European Union is exempting an entire country’s timber exports from the requirements of its EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which prohibits trade in illegally harvested timber products.

The FLEGT license guarantees that timber from Indonesia has been harvested, processed and exported in accordance with Indonesian laws.

It’s fitting for me to reiterate here that FLEGT licenses serve border control requirements and are not intended as a product label, but as FLEGT-licensed products automatically meet the EUTR requirements, EU-based importers will not need to do further due diligence before placing them on the market.

Here lies the triumph. Indonesia has achieved great progress in bringing its forest sector under control.

By addressing legality, not only have we met the very high and stringent certification standards of the EU — an important market that represents 28 countries — we have also managed to build a foundation for sustainable forest management and made it our contributing action to address climate change.

Long before the EU got into the picture, Indonesia had decided that it would halt illegal logging once and for all, for the terrible environmental degradation that had resulted, the wanton deforestation and, more to the point, the unrecorded state revenues amounting to billions, if not trillions of rupiah that we had lost.

In 2001, Indonesia hosted a regional conference that helped put illegal logging on the map as an issue of global concern. The conference ended with the Bali Declaration on Forest Law and Governance.

By 2003, Indonesia had begun a long — and oft-times painful — process of dialogue and compromise based on a multistakeholder platform to improve transparency, public participation and all aspects of good forest governance.

In the ensuing years, Indonesia developed a system for assuring that all our timber products were harvested or imported, traded, processed and exported in compliance with national laws pertaining to the environment, the economy and all other social issues, as identified by the stakeholders.

The resulting timber legality assurance system, or SVLK (Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu), is subject to continual independent monitoring by civil society and periodic evaluation by independent monitors. I’m not saying that the path was easy.

When can a multistakeholder platform ever be? However, the results are well worth it.

Indonesia has guaranteed that this improvement mechanism is continuous, based on input from all those stakeholders, data collection from the field, forest monitoring by independent NGOs, law enforcement and monitoring of the market for FLEGT-licensed timber products.

On April 21 in Brussels, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and EU President Jean-Claude Juncker signed a joint statement for Indonesia’s issuance of the FLEGT License in this same year. We are now seeing that agreement come to fruition after 15 years of hard work.

This is the direct result of increasing transparency, better accountability and stakeholder participation in decisions about Indonesia’s forests. Today I am proud to say all of Indonesia’s timber products, exports and otherwise, are from independently audited factories and forests.

To round off this piece, allow me to give you some statistics: To date, about 24 million hectares of natural and plantation forest are SVLK-certified, together with 2,843 forestbased enterprises and industries.

Since January 2016, Indonesia exported SVLK-licensed timber products to about 200 countries, including the 28 EU countries, with a total worth of about US$8.2 billion. I’m overjoyed to say that 100 percent of the timber harvested in natural forest concessions and 100 percent of the timber from plantation forest concessions is SVLK-certified.

From Nov. 15 until 10 a.m. on Nov. 23, Indonesia had issued 845 FLEGT licenses for exporters with products destined for 24 countries in the EU, with a total value of $24.96 million. These products included wood panels with a total value of $11.92 million and furniture products worth $7.25 million.

It’s important to note that this is by no means the work of one ministry. The whole deal was a joint effort of many ministries working together, including the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Trade Ministry, the Industry Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the ministry for cooperatives and small and medium enterprises and my own ministry.

By the end of this year, the first shipments of FLEGT-licensed timber from Indonesia will enter EU ports. The EU countries have completed all their internal procedures to recognize FLEGT licensing from Indonesia.

The competent authorities and timber importers in the member countries are now prepared to receive these shipments.

Very soon, Indonesian timber products will be firmly placed in the EU market, a market that demands zero risk of illegal logging.

Indonesia’s FLEGT-licensed products are 100 percent guaranteed to have zero risk of having been illegally logged.

 

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.