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Lessons Learned from Civil Society Efforts to Promote Community (Forest) Resource Rights and other Rights in Voluntary Partnership Agreements

By Lindsay Duffield, Michael Richards - Forest Trends
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The 2003 European Union (EU) Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan represents an attempt to link forest governance reforms in timber producing countries with market incentives for legally produced timber. Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) are bilateral trade agreements signed between the EU and a timber producing country, and are a key element of the FLEGT Action Plan. Each VPA has been drafted to reflect the realities and priorities of the producer country, and the negotiation process for each agreement has directly involved national civil society representatives, often for the first time in the forest sector. Civil society in VPA countries and internationally have sought to use the VPA negotiation process to advance community resource rights and other rights.
The main objective of this paper is to examine the experiences and efforts of civil society in promoting a rights-based agenda through their engagement in VPA negotiations. It draws on experiences from the six countries that have completed negotiations: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia and Republic of Congo.
Translations of this paper in French and Spanish are forthcoming.