Honduras and the European Union kickstart the implementation of their ambitious timber trade agreement aimed at curbing illegal and unsustainable logging
Tegucigalpa, 12 septiembre 2022-
Today, the first meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) that oversees the VPA took place in the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, getting the implementation of the VPA officially of the ground. Honduras is one of 15 countries that are implementing or negotiating a VPA with the EU. Honduras is the first country in Latin America where the VPA is in its implementation phase.
The VPA is an international legally binding trade agreement set to address the root causes of illegal logging and promote the sustainable use of forests to ensure trade in legal timber and contribute to tackling deforestation, forest degradation, and climate change. The deal also includes strong commitments on the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples in relation to forests. Despite being a bilateral trade deal, the obligations apply to all Honduras’ export markets as well as its domestic market, thereby ensuring coverage of the entire forest sector and avoiding any circumventions.
The JIC is co-chaired by the Executive Director of the National Institute for Forest Conservation and Development (ICF) of Honduras, Mr. Luis Edgardo Solíz Lobo, and the Head of the EU Delegation to Honduras, Mr. Jaume Segura. Continuing the unprecedent practice of expanded stakeholder participation during the VPA negotiations, the JIC includes participation from various government ministries and institutions, the private sector including small forest owners, civil society organizations, indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, and donor partners supporting the implementation of the Agreement. This will ensure that the VPA works for forests and people.
A central element of the VPA is the definition of legality that, while framed on the basis of existing legislation, includes environmental, social, and economic laws, thereby promoting better governance, enhancing transparency, fighting corruption, increasing public and private revenues, boosting competitiveness of the forest sector, and respecting ownership and use rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples. Furthermore, a commitment to review relevant legislation in the light of current environmental, climate, social and economic challenges has been included in the VPA with the aim of complementing the efforts of Honduras to mitigate and adapt to such challenges.
A robust system of checks and balances, including a compliance mechanism and independent evaluations, as well as an independent assessment of fulfillment of the VPA obligations and commitments before FLEGT licensing can start will guarantee the credibility of the VPA in the international arena and the integrity of the Honduras forest sector and timber industry.
In its first meeting, the JIC reviewed and adopted the first workplan for the implementation of the VPA. This workplan sets out the immediate priority activities to curb illegal logging, and the first steps in the creation of a more conducive business environment by removing red tape for private sector forest operations. Civil society and indigenous peoples will be instrumental during the first years of the implementation as they will lead on the creation of a framework to monitor the impacts of the VPA implementation on peoples and the planet, and on the creation of a system for the independent monitoring of forest enterprises. The workplan also foresees the operationalization of the secretariat overseeing the implementation (SETAVA). The workplan was developed in an inclusive manner and was endorsed by the different stakeholder groups.
Honduras’ legality assurance system holds a critical role under the VPA as it will be responsible for verifying the legality of locally produced and imported timber. The system will be built on existing national initiatives and will be informed by best practices as well as knowledge and experiences gained in the other seven (7) VPAs already in implementation.
"Honduras and the EU have been working on the VPA since 2013 with the aim of addressing illegal logging and its pernicious effects," said Jaume Segura, EU Ambassador to Honduras. "This is the first VPA signed between the EU and a Latin American country. The EU applauds Honduras for the progress it has made so far in ensuring a highly participatory process, in which indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples have been represented alongside the government, civil society organisations and the private sector. With strengthened forest governance and increased exports of timber and legal timber products, Honduras will be able to not only boost its economy and create more jobs, but also preserve nature and protect and support local communities. This will have a major impact on the daily lives of the Honduran population. Many challenges lie ahead, and the EU and Honduras are ready to address them now that the VPA reaches its full implementation phase. In line with the EU's international commitments, this agreement is a further step in our global fight against deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change."
"Legal and sustainable trade in wood products is an absolute priority for Honduras, one of the countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change. Our forests are essential for sustainable social, economic and environmental development," Jaume Segura. "Honduras has made significant progress over the past decade in strengthening its forest legal framework and in making decisions regarding the forest sector in a more transparent and participatory manner. The VPA will push for additional efforts in this regard, and help combat illegal logging. Honduras is fully committed to ensuring that no illegally obtained timber products enter the market and will take the necessary actions to achieve this through effective law enforcement. "
Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) are bilateral trade agreements that commit the EU and partner country to trade only in products verified as legal, through the implementation of a FLEGT licensing system. This involves the development, through a multi-stakeholder process, of robust systems to ensure timber legality, as well as a wide range of commitments such as legal and policy reform, independent audits, and transparency and access to information.
The key aspect of the EU-Honduras VPA is the definition of the Honduran Timber Legality Assurance System (SALH) which, once operational, will ensure that exports of timber and timber products from Honduras to the EU will come from verified legal sources, regardless of whether the timber has been mined in Honduras or imported into the country. Although FLEGT licences will be specifically applicable in the EU market, the SALH will be a national system of application to all domestic and export markets.
Honduras is one of 15 countries that are implementing or negotiating a VPA with the EU. On November 15, 2016, Indonesia became the first country to issue FLEGT licenses. Honduras is the first country in Latin America to sign a VPA with the EU.