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The Voluntary Partnership Agreement between the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam and the European Union on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade was officially signed on May 17, 2018 and took effect on June 1, 2019 (VPA/FLEGT). After two years of the Agreement entering into force, the EU has conducted a study on the impacts of the VPA/FLEGT process on preventing forest loss and degradation in VPA countries. In the beginning, the report indicated that the VPA/FLEGT processes have contributed to forest governance reform as well as a significant reduction in illegal logging.

Currently, there are two main streams of opinion related to the indicators evaluating the success of VPA/FLEGT. In particular, some argue that the reduction of illegal logging is the main indicator proving the success of VPA/FLEGT. Nevertheless, VPA countries tend to evaluate the success of FLEGT mainly through changes at the national level. These improvements include improved forestry governance, transparency, and the reduction in the volume of illegally produced timber entering domestic consumption as well as being exported.

Meanwhile, the EU places more emphasis on indicators related to the EU’s role as a timber market, namely the volume of illegal timber and the number of FLEGT licenses entering the EU market. The second set of metrics has the advantage of being more accessible than ‘governance improvement’. However, there is a limitation in assessing the impact of VPA processes on forests.

The EU intends to amend VPA/FLEGT and EUTR to interact with upcoming EU regulations related to agriculture causing forest loss, including forestry partnerships. However, adjusting the new FLEGT would face new challenges. Fern's report on "The Voluntary Partnership Agreement 2.0 on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT) – Response to the European Council on the FLEGT Fitness check and FUTU options” was the subject of discussions on the role of the VPA/FLEGT in protecting forest to prevent forest loss and forest degradation globally.

There are several reform options recommended by countries. The EU is required to consider its ambitions regarding forests. All forest and community-related threats could not be addressed by a policy focused entirely on forestry. Illegal and unsustainable logging remains a major threat to the quality of forests and the livelihoods of local communities. This approach embodied in FLEGT processes has allowed the EU to have a positive influence beyond the scope of its timber supply chain. Therefore, the question is whether the EU desires to support the global transition to more sustainable and equitable use of forest resources or whether it would be limited to cleaning up its supplies. To answer such questions, the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD), as the coordinator of the Vietnamese Science & Technology Organization on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VNGO-FLEGT) Network and the Chairman 4 of Vietnamese Non-Governmental Organization on the EU and Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement (VNGO-EVFTA) Network, consulted with the organization members, particularly several VPA/FLEGT and EVFTA experts to clarify “The role and position of the VPA/FLEGT in Vietnam’s forestry and required adjustment in the coming period”. This report is the result of a consultation study conducted in Quarter IV, 2021.

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