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CHALLENGES AND RECOMMENDATIONS IDENTIFIED TO REVIVE VPA As part of the joint evaluation of the Cameroon FLEGT VPA, a national workshop for exchange and synthesis on the progress and challenges of the VPA was organized with stakeholders on 16 and 17 April 2019.

The FLEGT VPA (Voluntary Partnership Agreement) between Cameroon and the European Union (EU) signed on October 6, 2010 and entered into force in December 2011 is not yet operational. At the Joint Monitoring Committee meeting of 17 May 2018, the EU and Cameroon agreed to conduct a joint review of the Agreement and its implementation.

Initiated in February 2019, this joint evaluation mission began with a first phase of surveys and consultations of the various stakeholders on the assessment of the FLEGT-VPA and the results were presented during a national exchange and synthesis workshop from 16 to 17 April 2019 in Mfou (Yaoundé). The objectives of this workshop were to validate these results, to agree on the progress and difficulties of the VPA and to identify the main challenges to be addressed as well as the main orientations for the continuation of the VPA-FLEGT process in Cameroon..

The workshop brought together about fifty participants representing all stakeholders (administration, private sector, civil society, development partners, research), and was organized around technical sessions. The private sector was represented by the GFBC, AEFNC/SEFNA and FECAPROBOIS.

The results of the VPA inventory of fixtures via the preliminary survey were presented according to 4 themes which were the subject of group work to enhance the conclusions of the surveys with challenges and recommendations:

  • Rules of the game: The definition of a clear agenda for the reform of the forestry law, the proposal of a realistic and progressive approach to the implementation of the VPA, the finalisation and adoption of the land use master plan, the acceleration of the process of adopting the incentive text on legal timber supply or the consensual adoption of the new timber legality grids.
  • Tools and capacities: the use of the conflict management mechanisms provided for by the VPA in Article 24 to resolve the disagreement between Cameroon and the EU on the follow-up to be given to SIGIF 2, the updating of data on MINFOF’s VPA site, the optimization of the procedure for reporting infractions.
  • Incentives and Governance: the strengthening of anti-corruption measures, the simplification of the modalities of access to and purchase of legal timber, the strengthening of transparency and the involvement of stakeholders in the implementation of environmental and social safeguards, the amendment of the annexes on the legality, traceability and implementation schedule grids, and the strengthening of the sanctions provided for in the new draft law currently being finalized.
  • Mandates and coordination: the use of Article 24 of the VPA for the SIGIF 2 issue, the reorganization and re-equipment of community and communal forests, the setting up within MINFOF of a Unit dedicated to the implementation of the VPA, the setting up of facilitation for the elaboration of LAS implementation procedures, awareness-raising and better coordination at port level on timber embarkation actions.

It should be noted, however, that one of the fundamental disagreements among stakeholders concerns the evaluation of IFIS 2 and the follow-up for its deployment.

Substantive issues concerning the private sector were discussed, in particular the reform of the legal framework, the follow-up to be given to SIGIF 2, the consideration of individual traceability systems, the recognition of certification in the LAS, the development of a domestic market for legal timber.

Similarly, the private sector has identified the challenges to be met for the resumption of the VPA that would stimulate and facilitate the involvement of operators in the VPA, such as the motivation of the private sector for sustainable management certification, the operationalization of SIGIF 2 or another traceability system, the generalization of the use of the Open Timber Portal to increase the level of transparency, Encouraging the private sector to adopt a traceability system, formalizing a public purchase policy for legal timber to promote a domestic market for legal timber, and initiating a new progressive roadmap (focusing first on export timber, then on domestic timber).

The next steps of the Joint Review were presented, which will lead to the elaboration of the roadmap for the implementation of the Cameroon FLEGT-VPA (scheduled for early July). The full report of this workshop is available upon request to ATIBT members.