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17 April 2011

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News
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Indonesia

Indonesia and the EU reach agreement on illegal wood trade

A new agreement will work to keep illegal wood from Indonesia out of European Union markets. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) will force Indonesia to only ship wood to the EU that has been approved as legal by a national authority, while EU customs workers are set to send any unapproved wood back to Indonesia. The VPA is a step forward in tackling the illegal timber market in Indonesia that is estimated to be worth $1 billion and has been responsible, in part, for leveling rainforests across the Indonesia islands.

The agreement, which will be signed in Jakarta on May 5, comes after four years of negotiations between EU and Indonesian authorities, and a decade of campaigning by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and its Indonesian partner Telapak.

"This is an incredibly important milestone," said EIA Senior Campaigner Faith Doherty in a press statement. "We took huge risks to tackle a seriously corrupt system which protected violent and extremely powerful businessmen, pressing on even as the many cases of corruption we exposed were met with a wall of silence."

Doherty knows first-hand the extent of brutality in Indonesia's illegal timber trade. In 2000 she and an Indonesia colleague were kidnapped, beaten, and threatened at gunpoint after taking footage of the timber company, Tanjung Lingga, illegally felling trees in Tanjung Puting National Park in Borneo.

The Indonesian government is progressing toward having all timber production subject to independent auditing through an ISO-accredited (International Organization for Standardization) system.

Doherty told mongabay.com last year, however, that much work remains to be done: "we still have major challenges. Russia is not part of any agreement nor is China, two major exporters."

Over the last couple decades the forests of Indonesia have become some of the world's most imperiled. Logging, both legal and illegal, palm oil, and pulp and paper plantations have brought many of Indonesia's forests down, threatening its wildlife, local people who depend on the forests, and emitting vast quantities of greenhouse gases, putting Indonesia third of the world's top greenhouse gas emitters, behind industrial juggernauts the US and China.

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Chatham House is assessing the scale and effectiveness of the response to illegal logging and the related trade around the world. Full details of this work, including analysis and data, will be available online soon.