As the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its member states implement a new ten-year plan to improve forest governance, civil society organisations (CSOs) in the region are keen to get involved.
The ASEAN Work Plan for Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (2016-2025) has four strategic thrusts:
- Enhancing sustainable forest management
- Enhancing trade facilitation, economic integration and market access
- Strengthening ASEAN’s joint approaches on regional and international issues affecting the forestry sector; and
- Institutional strengthening and human resources development.
The CSOs are interested having regular meetings with responsible government representatives and, ideally, joining country delegations to ASEAN working groups responsible for implementing the plan.
“We’re keen to track the implementation of the ASEAN commitments and activities at the national and regional level,” said To Kim Lien, from Center for Education and Development, Vietnam.
To is one of 25 participants from Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia who attended a regional CSO meeting on forest law enforcement and governance in Southeast Asia on 5 December 2016, in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The EU FLEGT Facility hosted the meeting to assess interest in setting up a regional platform for CSOs working on FLEG-related topics in the region.
The ASEAN Senior Officials on Forestry (ASOF), which reports to the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry, is responsible for the overall supervision, coordination and implementation of the Work Plan.
ASOF will be supported by five working groups that meet at least once a year and focus, respectively, on forest management; CITES and wildlife enforcement; forest products development; social forestry; and forests and climate change.
Thang Hooi Chiew, an independent consultant, highlighted that some of these working groups could draw on the expertise of civil society organisations to implement the work plan.
He added that under the new work plan, activities could be implemented with the agreement of at least two ASEAN member states. Previously, activities could only be implemented with the consent from all member states.
The civil society representatives were keen to exchange information, knowledge, skills and resources related to independent monitoring, timber legality, and advocacy at the national and regional level, including on VPA processes.
“In Laos, CSOs have been invited by the government to participate in the VPA process but the complexity of the negotiation is difficult to follow, and the time commitment is high,” said Dr Chanthavy Vongkha, from the Lao Wildlife Conservation Association.
“We want to learn from neighbouring countries, how do their CSOs continue to participate in the process?” said Dr Chanthavy Vongkha.
His Indonesian colleague shared that capacity building is important while the Vietnamese also expressed their willingness to share their lessons.
“A few years ago the media and businesses were not that interested in the VPA because it was very technical,” said To. “We set up a team to go through the documents and translate it into public-friendly information. We can do the same for other countries. It’s important to make information available for different target groups.”