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National VPA stakeholder structures

Individual stakeholders cannot all participate in a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process directly. They can, however, organise themselves into groups and choose representatives to take part on their behalf. These groups include trade associations, unions, NGO networks and civil society platforms. Their roles in VPA processes may include:

  • Deliberating on aspects of a VPA to agree stakeholder positions and articulate these positions in national and bilateral negotiations
  • Appointing representatives to multistakeholder structures, including national negotiating structures
  • Communicating with constituents about the VPA process and its implications
  • Supporting implementation of a VPA and monitoring the impacts

In most VPA processes, formal or informal groups of stakeholders already existed or formed before negotiations began. The effectiveness of such groups depends in part on how well they communicate the views of their members in national and bilateral VPA negotiations and how well they channel information from the negotiations back to their constituencies.

Representation is also a challenge. Private sectors groups, such as trade associations, tend to have a membership of large companies rather than small-scale operators such as chainsaw loggers or furniture makers. Participation by small-scale operators depends, therefore, on the extent to which they organise themselves and are aware of VPA processes.

It can also be a challenge for civil society platforms to represent the plurality of members' views and priorities. Members may focus on a range of issues such as gender, human rights, environment or poverty.

Example. The Liberia Chainsaw and Timber Dealers' Union

The Liberia Chainsaw and Timber Dealers' Union represents artisanal chainsaw operators and small-scale stakeholders in the Liberian forest sector. The union became involved in the VPA process after negotiations had ended, and the EU and Liberia had signed the VPA. Since then, the union has trained more than 200 members on the VPA process, and given voice to its constituents in the implementation phase of the VPA.

Source: FAO. 2014. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) Process in Central and West Africa: From Theory to Practice. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome, Italy. 58pp. [Download PDF]


Example. Vietnamese NGO network on FLEGT

The Vietnamese NGO network on FLEGT is a platform of 40 member organisations. Members have knowledge and experience of groups that depend on forests, including ethnic minorities, household-based and other small enterprises that process wood, and people who own land, but do not have land titles. Since its formation in 2012, the network has:

  • Built the capacity of its members to engage with the VPA process
  • Consulted communities about aspects of the VPA, such as the legality definition and timber legality assurance system
  • Provided the Vietnamese government with written comments based on consultations
  • Conducted research and published reports on legal reform in the forest sector and on the potential impacts of a VPA on livelihoods

The network does not have a seat on Vietnam's negotiating structures. However, it has influence, as the government of Vietnam is legally required to consult on new legal documents and trade agreements, and because the EU may follow up on some of points the network makes. The network chair hopes the network will also have a role in VPA implementation and/or monitoring.

Source: EU FLEGT Facility interview 2014