Indonesia’s journey towards FLEGT licensing has been fascinating to be involved in. Previously media headlines around forestry and timber were mainly negative, focusing on illegal logging. Now Indonesia is first to ship FLEGT-licensed timber to the EU.

FLEGT is a unique trade agreement as it involves all three stakeholder groups: government, civil society and private sector. This adds complexity in negotiations, but gives EU FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements with suppliers vtial credibility.

FLEGT has been criticised for being slow and bureaucratic. But, as multi-stakeholder processes are rare in trade agreements, implementation delays at this point must be expected and the time taken now will ultimately increase acceptance of the systems. Moreover, further steps to improve the implementation process are now likely.

The goals of FLEGT are commendable. The responsible management of forests it supports benefits the environment and the greater value it puts on forest products incentivises forest preservation over conversion.

Indonesia should be proud of what it has achieved but as with any system it is important to continually improve, as no doubt challenges will arise.

GTF’s own mission is to build strategic coalitions between forest and wood-based industries and stakeholders to address challenges in delivering responsibly sourced and traded products. This includes supply chain reform and analysis as to whether there is potential for increased demand or just sustaining existing market share.

GTF is undertaking a review of how the European trade buys from Indonesia, its expectations and what it needs to know about the country’s new system. It is important that marketing programmes developed by Indonesia are tailored to reflect the realities of the trade.

The aim should be to build a clear picture of the benefits of doing business with Indonesian companies on a commercial level, while also underpinned by Indonesia’s SVLK legality assurance system.