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How a VPA can strengthen capacity

Why capacity matters

Good forest governance depends on the knowledge, skills, systems and resources government and other stakeholders need to:

  • Control supply chains
  • Verify the legality of timber
  • Monitor and punish forest crimes
  • Self-organise and engage with decision-making processes
  • Comply with legal requirements and adapt business functions
  • Coordinate activities
  • Communicate effectively

Often, however, gaps in capacity within governments, the private sector and civil society contribute to governance failures. Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) processes can identify and help to fill such gaps. Building capacity can happen both during a VPA process and as a result of the commitments the parties make in a VPA text and annexes.

How a VPA process can strengthen capacity

Participation in a VPA process can itself build capacity. Stakeholders gain knowledge by generating and sharing information, for example. Governments learn skills through trial and error, such as by managing consultations.

In order to participate in a meaningful way, stakeholders often need to strengthen their capacity first. Governments, EU institutions, EU member states, civil society groups, nongovernmental and international organisations, timber associations and private companies can all play roles in building capacity to participate in the VPA process. Activities to build capacity include:

  • Support for platforms that enable stakeholders to organise themselves, discuss issues, and develop negotiating positions
  • Training on technical issues, such as wood tracking
  • Training on organisational issues, strengthening advocacy such as the development of position papers, negotiating and fundraising
  • Research and analysis of legal texts
  • Support to identify areas where private-sector compliance may pose challenges and steps to address such challenges
  • Building understanding of market requirements and market information needs
  • Support for exchanges among VPA stakeholders in different countries
  • Providing technical assistance to governments and others
  • Support to enable stakeholders to participate in meetings
  • Funding to employ coordinators of NGO coalitions

As a VPA process proceeds, other capacity gaps often become apparent. Gaps include the capacity of state authorities to fulfil their existing mandates, for instance to manage forests and enforce laws. There may also be gaps in the capacity of governments, the private sector and civil society groups to implement a VPA and monitor its impacts. Field testing the timber legality assurance system may, for instance, expose a need for capacity building in the private sector.

The VPA process is effective in assessing capacity across the entire forest sector. VPA partner countries usually have not assessed capacity in the forest sector before although capacity is essential for good forest governance. Capacity needs that the VPA process identifies may include:

  • Technical and organisational training for governance agencies, the private sector and civil society
  • Technology, software and equipment
  • Additional staff or skills
  • New organisations, such as cooperatives of small-scale private-sector stakeholders
  • New institutions, such as agencies that verify timber legality or issue FLEGT licences

In exposing capacity gaps, the VPA process emphasises the inherent complexity of the forest sector, and why the challenges to oversee it. The VPA process also raises the visibility of capacity gaps, which enables politicians to focus on correcting them. Countries respond to capacity gaps in different ways.

Some VPA partner countries address capacity building in negotiations and outline needs for capacity building in an annex on accompanying measures, the annex on the timber legality assurance system or elsewhere in the VPA. A statement of needs can help secure national budget support or donor assistance to enhance capacity.

Other countries state that they understand their capacity gaps and will address them during the implementation phase of the VPA. Whether or not a VPA mentions capacity building, what matters is that the process reflects on capacity gaps, priority actions and the resources needed.

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