UK ministers hail Indonesia’s transformative FLEGT achievement

5 March 2018

The UK Timber Trade Federation’s Timber Transformer exhibition describes the challenging journey Indonesia undertook to become the first country to issue its EU timber exports with FLEGT licences as legality assurance.

During an official reception at the exhibition’s London Building Centre venue, UK ministers for international development past and present both hailed Indonesia’s success as a major achievement for its timber sector and a major blow against international illegal wood trade.

Current minister Harriett Baldwin and Hilary Benn, secretary of state when the FLEGT initiative was launched in the early 2000s, also both praised the TTF and the UK trade for their commitment to sourcing legal and sustainable timber and their support for Indonesia through its EU FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) en route to FLEGT licensing.

Together with around 100 other guests, they toured the exhibition, which features information panels made in Indonesian plywood describing the country’s progress through the VPA and the on-the-ground impacts in terms of improved forest governance, timber trade transparency and stakeholder engagement.

Samples of other Indonesian timber products, including a range of teak items from London-based Adventures in Furniture, are also on show.

Ms Baldwin welcomed representatives of the Indonesian Embassy to the event.

“We must congratulate the Indonesian government and industry for meeting these exacting [FLEGT] standards,” she said.

“It truly has been a transformational achievement.” She added that she was also delighted by the recent government announcement that the EU Timber Regulation and EU FLEGT regulation would be retained in UK law post Brexit.

“Tackling deforestation is an important part of this government’s role and we are proud of the lead Britain has developed in the work,” she said.

Underlining its commitment, she added, her department last year announced allocation of a further £87m to the third phase of its Forest Governance, Markets and Climate programme.

Hilary Benn set Indonesia’s achievement in context, describing the “sheer scale of deforestation, illegality and criminality” in its timber trade he and his DFID team discovered on a visit in the early 2000s.

“But there was also a huge determination among government, NGOs and timber industry to do something about it,” he said.

“And in the UK the TTF was also a firm advocate of the EUTR and FLEGT initiative.” Indonesia’s success, he said, was a “reminder of the incredible capacity of human beings to solve problems and deliver something better.”

TTF managing director Dave Hopkins highlighted that a key element of the FLEGT initiative’s and EUTR’s success was that they benefited trade too.

“They not only impose greater environmental, social and economic standards, they’ve lead to increased business,” he said.

Adam Mulawarman Tugio, deputy chief of mission at the Indonesian embassy, stressed that the EU FLEGT initiative was a partnership between supplier and buyer countries. He urged more events to promote it until it became a ‘global norm for the legal timber market’.

He also said Indonesia would now share its experience and expertise in FLEGT with other VPA countries.

Delegates also attended from the Forestry Commission of Ghana, which is at an advanced stage of FLEGT VPA implementation and widely expected to be the next country to start licensing.