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The GFTN Guide to Legal and Responsible Sourcing

14.3 Developing National Indicators, Verifiers and Guidance for the Common Legality Framework

In order to test the applicability of the Common Legality Framework in different legal settings, TRAFFIC led the development of national indicators, verifiers and guidance for a sample of countries including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Cameroon, Russia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and Gabon.

This work was undertaken through a partnership with national government agencies in two countries. In China, TRAFFIC’s partner in conducting this work was the China National Forestry Economics and Development Research Centre (CNFEDRC) of the State Forestry Administration. In Vietnam, TRAFFIC’s partner was the national Forest Protection Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). In the other countries, the work was carried out by TRAFFIC staff and consultants.

The National Legality Frameworks were developed through a five-step process:

  1. Compiling the legal base
  2. Initial stakeholder consultation
  3. Drafting the national framework
  4. Subsequent stakeholder consultation and national framework revision
  5. Legal and audit expert review

The initial activity was the compilation of all available documents constituting the legal framework for the forestry sector in each of the countries. This was followed by individual consultations at the national level with relevant individuals in the forestry sector including representatives of the forestry administration, government, research institutes, the private sector—including current GFTN members where appropriate, NGOs and donors. The consultation was aimed at conducting a needs assessment for a legality framework, and once agreed on the need for one, identifying the most important issues requiring attention while developing the Common Legality Framework.

The preliminary draft of the Common Legality Framework for each country was developed taking into account the results of the consultative process. Drafts were presented at a series of national consultative meetings and workshops organised with support from within each of the countries. Participants were tasked with examining the preliminary draft of the Framework and proposing amendments. National workshops were held in:

  • Central African Republic (CAR), September 2006
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), October 2006
  • Republic of Congo (RC), October 2006
  • Gabon, February 2007
  • Vietnam, February 2007
  • China, April 2007

Each of the workshops was attended by approximately 30 participants from various government agencies (forestry, customs, environment and finance); national and international NGOs (e.g. IUCN, CIFOR, etc.), the private sector (timber concessionaires, processors, etc.) and assessors (independent auditors of forest certification and chain of custody). Stakeholder consultations gave guidance on the adequacy of the indicators and of the level of detail that should be included in the Common Legality Framework. In addition to the national consultation workshops in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo, TRAFFIC and WWF-CARPO also reached out to key stakeholders in order to gather additional views on the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the Common Legality Framework.

In Gabon, the workshop was organised in close collaboration with the Gabonese Ministry of Forestry, the French Cooperation and the Delegation of the European Commission in Gabon. A main constraint of the activity in Africa was the lack of satisfactory stakeholder consultation despite efforts made to consult with all relevant stakeholders in each country. In particular, the industry sector in CAR, NGOs and industry in Gabon, NGOs in DRC and all stakeholders in RC. Therefore, TRAFFIC and WWF-CARPO decided to reinforce consultations with these groups in each country during the period of June to mid-July 2007.  This last consultation phase was through small meetings, bilateral consultations or submission of written comments.

In China, several consultation workshops were held. In May 2006, fourteen representatives from NGO communities, local government, forestry institute, forest industries and GFTN-China participants attended a workshop to discuss the needs assessment activities and the elements of a legal standard in China including possible difficulties of the task. Detailed discussions were subsequently held with the relevant organisations and agencies during field visits in Shanghai in August 2006. Another meeting was specifically held to discuss the Common Legality Framework at the GFTN-China annual meeting held on 9 November 2006. This second consultation included some of the existing and potential GFTN-China participants, forest industry, relevant government departments, academic institutions and national forestry commerce associations. In collaboration with the State Forestry Administration TRAFFIC organized a national workshop in April 2007 in Beijing. The workshop was designed to conclude the first round of peer review for the legality standard in China. Twenty-three participants joined this workshop, including participants from the State Forestry Administration, the China CITES Management Authority, the Beijing Forestry University, the Forestry Academy of China, the China Forestry Commerce Association, and WWF-China. After this workshop, TRAFFIC conducted ‘peer review field trip’ to several provinces in China to discuss the definition with the provincial forestry bureaus and other provincial-level stakeholders.

In Malaysia, national workshops were not held due to the existence of legality standards from the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) which was developed through national and regional stakeholder consultations, and the on-going EU FLEGT VPA discussions which were starting to develop their own legality standard through a multi-stakeholder process as well. TRAFFIC built on the foundation set by MTCC but developed the Common Legality Framework as part of a larger harmonization process that cuts across the project countries. One-on-one consultations were held with relevant organisations and individuals in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, including with forestry departments, MTCC, Malaysian Timber Industry board, Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC), industry representatives and associations, auditors, and NGOs including environmental and social organisations.

In Vietnam, the national workshop in February 2007 was hosted by TRAFFIC and the Forest Protection Department. Further meetings were held with government institutes and organisations from the Vietnam’s forestry sector including Forest Inventory and Planning Institute (FIPI); Forest Science Institute of Vietnam (FSIV); Vietnam Timber and Forest Product Association (VIFORES), Vietnam Forestry Science Technology Association (VIFA); Vietnam Forest Corporation (VINAFOR); and Hanoi Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). Based on feedback from this round of consultative meetings, another draft was formulated. Further consultations on the draft were held with NGO stakeholders and industry (GFTN-Vietnam participants and applicants), with a new revision developed. Due to the difference in each individual’s and organization’s agenda, stakeholder consultation process in Vietnam was undertaken on a one-on-one basis.

Based on the results of the national workshops and various consultations, second and third drafts of the Principles, Criteria and Indicators (PC&I) were prepared. These subsequent drafts were reviewed by key representatives from each country and also by TRAFFIC to ensure the harmonisation of the Framework at the international level, at least to the level of Principles and Criteria.

The next step in the process was to utilize legal experts in each country to review the national PC&I to ensure that regulations referred to were current and relevant. In many of the countries there were few legal experts with the requisite expertise that were sufficiently knowledgeable and multidisciplinary in forestry, trade, conservation, environment and social issues. Therefore, it took some time to find suitable experts and complete the legal review.

A final process of harmonisation and review of the Common Legality Framework was conducted to determine possible applicability in terms of auditing and practicality of use of the verifiers. This was carried out by a consultant with expertise in conducting certification and chain-of-custody audits.

The process of developing and finalising the Common Legality Framework spanned two years, reflecting the time needed to consult widely; to take note of and accommodate the various political and administrative differences in each country; and then to harmonise the various national Criteria. It was completed in early 2009.

Due to differences in laws, procedures and implementation of the regulations, the generic Criteria may not all be applicable in every country. Each country’s Criteria and Indicators, where appropriate, may omit one or more of the Criteria, in which case the numbering sequence is also reordered for that country. For example, in some countries, there is limited legislation covering conservation or environmental issues. It is also important to note that the Criteria and Indicators are dependent on the regulations, and these regulations cover a wide range of conditions, in particular exemptions or stricter measures, usually established through contracts or agreements. The guidance notes attempt to clarify this with some details, but since the range of conditions in some Principles and Criteria is so varied between countries it may be necessary to check with the relevant agencies for greater guidance.

Some of the national verifiers identified through the above process do not refer in this document to specific regulations, but were raised during stakeholder consultations and approved for inclusion to address particular aspects of the trade or social, environmental and conservation issues, for example, contractual obligations. However, these are seldom used as the basis for the setting of indicators of the relevant country.

As legality is based on the laws and regulations of a country, including relevant departmental administrative circulars and contractual obligations, indicators and verifiers should be linked to specific regulations.  This should help to make it easier to update and keep the Framework current. Guidance notes and verifiers to assist auditors and companies in assessing compliance should be provided together with relevant regulations where possible. It is important to note that the Framework is a living document and will be updated on a regular basis to account for changes to the regulatory framework in each country.


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