Posted on 21 May 2020
In an effort to ensure the legality of its entire timber supply chain and exports, Viet Nam has developed a draft Timber Legality Assurance System (VNTLAS) Decree to go into effect later this year.
VNTLAS is a part of Viet Nam’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), which Viet Nam was just the third country in the world to sign in October 2018. The VPA ensures that timber exported to the EU from Viet Nam does not come from illegal sources.
The development of VNTLAS was made possible through the close collaboration of a number of government agencies, non-governmental organizations, academic institutes, timber associations, timber companies, and industry experts. WWF-Viet Nam, as a member of the VPA multi-stakeholder implementation core group, provided inputs from WWF experts and partner organizations across Viet Nam, the Greater Mekong region and Europe to ensure the representation of diverse ideas and opinions. WWF also supported Viet Nam’s Forest Protection Department (FPD), the focal point of this policy development, in the process of reviewing all comments and the development of the decree in order to submit for several levels of government approval.
“The significant contribution to the development of the VNTLAS feels like victory in our fight for protecting forests not only in Viet Nam but around the world as well,” said Nguyen Bich Hang, Forest Sector Transformation Manager for WWF-Viet Nam. “We’ve been working hard alongside the government and other important organizations throughout the country and the world to make sure this system not only strengthens the sustainable timber supply chain in Viet Nam but also ensures there is real impact on the ground in terms of protecting forests and community livelihoods.”
WWF-Viet Nam’s support for improved forest governance is part of the Voices for Mekong Forests (V4MF) project funded by the European Union (EU) and led by RECOFTC.
Transparency and efficiency are two major priorities of the new system, as was recommended by WWF during the development phase. The classification process of enterprises, for example, was identified as a priority for better clarity in procedure and better facilitation so that it’s more efficient and a more enabling environment for businesses to improve sustainable supply chains. Moreover, the monitoring of implementation of the VNTLAS will be assessed independently by third party organizations, which will enhance the monitoring roles of community-based and/or non-governmental organizations.
As a way of simplifying the identification of legal timber sources and reducing the workload of the FPD, WWF and other contributing organizations stressed the importance of promoting international forest certification systems such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). This suggestion was taken into the Appendix of the draft Decree as a method for improved traceability of timber imported to Vietnam.
The draft Decree is expected to be officially approved soon after several consultation processes with stakeholders and government authorities.The reflection of WWF and its associates in this draft policy is a sucess in policy advocacy in the framework of the V4MF collaborative project. Policy improvements like these, focusing on controlling legal supply chains and legal timber trade, are an important step in ensuring only legal timber is entering the supply chain, which means better protection for forests and biodiversity throughout Viet Nam and the wider Mekong region.