Barcelona is the venue, October 7 the date for the next EU FLEGT Independent Market Monitor (IMM) Trade Consultation. Free to attend, it will provide a forum for timber professionals from across Europe to hear about latest developments in the EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) timber legality assurance initiative. As importantly, it will be an opportunity to share their honest appraisals of it.

Previous IMM Consultations, including in the UK, have attracted a range of delegates, including timber importers, distributors, end users and retailers. They have also been attended by industry federations, NGOs and representatives of government agencies, including national FLEGT and EUTR competent authorities, and some of the 15 tropical supplier countries located throughout the tropics engaged with the EU FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement programme (VPA). Discussions have been comprehensive and lively. Sometimes challenging.

The goal of the EU FLEGT VPA initiative is to support tropical timber and timber product supplier countries, through their VPAs, in establishing timber legality assurance systems, which, in turn, ensure legal supply chains to Europe. It’s a demanding process. Among other things, VPAs require effective forest governance, broad stakeholder engagement and independent monitoring. The ultimate objective is for supplier countries to fully implement their VPA, authorising them to issue exports with FLEGT Licences, which exempt them further due diligence under the EU Timber Regulation.

Managed by the International Tropical Timber Organisation and funded by the EU, the IMM’s role is to monitor timber trade flows from VPA countries to the EU and assess trade impacts of FLEGT-licensed imports. We present our analysis through our website, newsletters and annual report.

The IMM’s core remit also includes gauging EU market perceptions of the FLEGT initiative and market acceptance of FLEGT-licensed timber. It acts as a channel for EU trade opinion and recommendations, feeding them back to the EU and VPA partner country authorities to inform further development of FLEGT.

We obtain market feedback through annual trade surveys of leading EU tropical timber importing countries, including the UK. We also undertake special sectoral reports.

Our questions to timber businesses cover many areas, including the wider commercial competitiveness of VPA countries, given that assured legality and sustainability is only one of many timber procurement criteria.

The IMM’s other vital conduit for market views on FLEGT is our Trade Consultations. Among topics addressed at previous events have been the reasons behind latest trends in EU tropical timber markets and EU national governments’ attitudes towards accepting FLEGT licensing in procurement policy. They have also discussed a VPA’s wider social, economic and environmental benefits, a subject of keen interest to an active Consultation participant, the UK TTF, as reflected in its Timber Transformer exhibition on Indonesia’s VPA and now its pan-European FLEGT communication initiative.

A similarly diverse range of topics will no doubt be raised at our Barcelona Consultation. It will include analysis of the international tropical timber trade, plus a special focus on VPA development in Africa. As with previous Consultations, it will feature workshops for delegates to tackle FLEGT-related issues and discuss the route to ensuring a legal, sustainable timber market.