What does forest law enforcement & governance (FLEG) mean for civil society in Southeast Asia & the Pacific?

Representatives from 25 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and institutions, working in 11 countries in Southeast Asia & the Pacific met in Khao Yai, Thailand from November 11-14, 2008, to participate in the IUCN Asia Regional Office Regional Forest Programme (RFP) initiative, “Enhancing FLEG in Southeast Asia & the Pacific: Capacity Building Workshop for NGOs.” Participants also included a small number of government officials from selected countries.

Participants at Khao Yai Nationa Park

The workshop revealed a shared uncertainty about what the East Asia (EA) FLEG process is, how NGOs can engage with the process and whether it is in their interest to do so. To help address this uncertainty, follow up actions included an agreement by voluntary country focal points to produce assessments of the FLEG priorities in each of the countries represented. In February 2009, IUCN’s RFP will synthesize the country reports to get a clearer picture of where and how regional collaboration can achieve maximum added value to forest governance and law enforcement work already being carried out at the national level. This is a first step toward creating a strategic framework for NGO collaboration at the regional level to achieve objectives that support equitable and sustainable forest management in Southeast Asia & the Pacific.

The 4-day meeting began with training in timber species identification, focusing on species most threatened by trade in Southeast Asia & the Pacific. By the end of the day and a half introductory session, all participants were able to correctly identify Merbau, Ramin and Teak using the blade and hand lenses provided. The timber identification was organized in collaboration with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.  TongPei Sin of TRAFFIC also spoke about use of timber identification as a tool for advocacy, drawing from TRAFFIC’s experience and highlighting the organization’s recent recommendation that Merbau range states consider a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) listing for Merbau.

Participants analyzed current national timber tracking systems, identifying strengths and weaknesses and considered what both national and international NGOs, as well as regional organizations such as ASEAN can do to strengthen how timber tracking systems operate in the region.

Dian Sukmajaya of the ASEAN Secretariat presented ASEAN’s own understanding of FLEG and the recently endorsed ASEAN work plan on FLEG. Mr Sukmajaya also highlighted the newly established ASEAN Regional Knowledge Network on FLEG, an information-sharing network for individuals, organizations and institutions recognized as experts on FLEG.

Possible roles for NGOs in monitoring and law enforcement and different approaches and frameworks for collaboration among different stakeholders, including law enforcement officials and communities, were discussed based on the experiences of the organizations present.

Kyeretwie Opoku of Civic Response Ghana, a member of the national NGOcoalitionForest Watch Ghana, also attended the meeting and shared experiences and lessons learned from NGO coalition-building in Ghana. Mr Opoku also spoke specifically about the Ghanaian experience with the recently agreed Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between the Ghanaian government the European Union from the perspective of civil society organizations. Among other things Mr Opoku highlighted for NGOs the importance of recognizing whether or not a particular national or regional process is in fact the best vehicle to achieve an organization’s objectives when considering how and whether or not to engage.

The morning of the final day participants enjoyed a guided morning walk in KhaoYaiNational Park. The rest of the afternoon was spent agreeing on an action plan for follow up activities comprised mainly of the reports mentioned above, as well as identifying some of the key priorities for a regional FLEG strategy raised over the course of the four days. The workshop was funded by the IUCN Netherlands Committee Ecosystems Grants Programme.

For more information, please contact Allison Bleaney, Programme Officer, Regional Forest Programme, at allison@iucnt.org 


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