Certification as a Tool for Sustainable Forest Management and Good Governance - South East Asia

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Although only 5% of the world's forests are located in Southeast Asia, the region accounted for about 17% of global forest loss in 2000 to 2010: An area about the size of Vietnam was deforested in the past decade. Illegal logging is one major force driving deforestation and degradation. This results in loss of biodiversity, tax revenue and the potential of forest resources to contribute to poverty reduction.

In tropical regions, the challenge of improving forest management to meet certification standards, and increasing pressure to prove timber legality, has led to development of verification schemes. These schemes offer third-party assurance of legality, and, potentially, a step-wise approach to full certification.

However several issues need to be addressed:

  • There are several well established certification schemes and an increasing number of verification schemes. The extent to which they offer proof of compliance with national laws and regulations is not well understood.
  • Certification is seen as a complementary tool for law enforcement to stimulate compliance and reduce illegality; however its enforcement power might be limited by its voluntary nature and other constraints.

Currently there is a proliferation of private and official standards. These standards range from those that apply to all (legality), to those that are compulsory to all exports to the EU and US markets (EU timber regulation and amended Lacey act), and finally to completely voluntary schemes (SFM certification).

With support from PROFOR, the World Bank's East Asia staff in collaboration with the Bank's Agriculture and Rural Development Department examined linkages between certification/verification and forest law enforcement and how the two might be strengthened. The study compared different schemes, considered the proof of legal compliance that they offer, and examined their credibility.

The study focused on certified and verified production forests in Vietnam, Lao PDR, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, and covered both plantations and natural forests.

This activity produced a discussion paper assessing the certification and verification systems currently in place in Southeast Asia, which was published in December 2012 and is available on this page.The report shows that:

  • Voluntary certification is at early stages of acceptance and application in the Southeast Asian case study countries, where there is significant potential to expand use of this tool. Only 11% of the production forest area is certified and less than 6% of forest plantations. However, the countries in the region are aiming to increase timber production from forest plantations and consequently promote certification of these areas. It is estimated that the potential to increase certification in natural and plantation forests in the case study countries is large, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • Continued pressures from environmentally-sensitive markets, especially in Europe, North America, Oceania and Japan, will oblige producer countries to provide evidence of legality and sustainability if they wish to retain their export markets. Legality verification, third party certification and stepwise programs offered by independent third party assessors can potentially provide evidence of legality and sustainability to meet the requirements of these discerning markets.
  • Although verification and certification schemes and standards differ, there is evidence that the principles, criteria, policies and standards are becoming increasingly harmonized. Certification increasingly includes both legality and sustainability