Sustainable Forest Management Certification can play a significant role in supporting the FLEGT objectives and processes in Myanmar. Whilst FLEGT VPA certification approaches operate at different levels, the core outcomes can and would compliment each other: improving forest management and combating illegal logging and associated trade in Myanmar.
Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA), are specifically focused on long‐term efforts towards improving forest governance and ensuring legality in the forest sector. Such initiatives are national regulatory approaches. Forest certification on the other hand is a voluntary approach, focused primarily on promoting sustainable forest management and communicating forest products’ sustainable origins throughout supply chains.
Despite a number of differences between the two approaches there are also distinct possible synergies. A recent study emerging from the Working Group on Forest Certification in Ghana, with the support of UK DFID in cooperation with PEFC International and the UK Timber Trade Federation (UK TTF), offered some important insights that would also be highly relevant to the Myanmar context.
Both certification and the FLEGT approaches can inform or contribute to the development and implementation of each other. In addition, synergies and formal recognition between VPAs and certification can help simplify verification and limit redundancy, which would almost certainly result in reduced costs of verification activities.
One important advantage of recognition of Certification is that is acknowledges efforts made by forest managers and operators to achieve or contribute to Sustainable Forest Management. It should also be stressed that whereas FLEGT VPAs can take years or decades to fully implement, PEFC certification can deliver recognition of sustainable forest management in a relatively short space of time. This is critical not only in taking immediate steps to address issues of poor forest governance and tackle illegal logging, but also in opening up market access to Myanmar. Improved market access is also key to tackling a number of social and economic challenges that include poverty alleviation.
The Ghana study found that whilst FLEGT VPA legality requirements cover a wide range of the environmental, social and economic requirements of a national standards for sustainable forest management and chain of custody certification, there are specific areas where a certification standard goes significantly further than FLEGT VPA requirements.