Gender and FLEGT: Nexus and Options in Viet Nam

After hosting a workshop on Gender and FLEGT VPAs as part of the regional V4MF project, Dr. Kalpana Giri reflects on the lessons learned and the opportunities ahead.

In the prosperous timber industry of Viet Nam, more than 50 percent of the labor is conducted by women. This observation by Ms. Van of the Vietnam Administration of Forestry at a recent workshop on gender equity and Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), underscores the necessity of incorporating sound gender policies into FLEGT processes if the initiative is to succeed.

A relatively novel approach to reduce illegal logging, FLEGT began in 2003 and targets the timber production process by creating markets for sustainably harvested timber products in the European Union (EU). FLEGT is implemented through Voluntary Partnership Agreements that allow for timber export countries and the EU to establish bilateral trade agreements. This expansive thematic mandate for sustainable timber harvesting and trade also necessitates an enabling forest governance that works in favor of sustainable management, reduces corruption and provides fair benefits across the timber supply chain.

In order to do so, FLEGT has opened up an opportunity for civil society organizations (CSOs) to enhance their voice in the negotiating process, particularly as it relates to the communities on-the-ground and transparency in the supply chain. This deliberative space, however, is oftentimes limited due to the lack of  technical knowledge on FLEGT, and limited negotiation capacity of CSOs.

As a regional European-Union funded project, Voices for Mekong Forests (V4MF) has been assisting CSOs in navigating this delicate situation, exploring areas where CSOs lack knowledge and capacity due to various constraints.

V4MF’s ongoing interactions with non-state actors and development partners reveal that most of the FLEGT work in Viet Nam, Laos and Thailand have been focused on crafting systems of operations. During The Center’s country visits, stakeholders seemed to report women as holding a sizeable proportion of labour for sustainable forest management, as well as in wood processing industries. Yet it appears that there is little examination of differentiated roles, access, rights and benefits between men and women of various social groups who are engaged in different stages of FLEGT operations or the risks that modernization and legalization of timber value chains may pose to women and men.

In short, gender equality and women’s empowerment is yet to be taken up as a substantive topic of consideration in FLEGT.

To mitigate this gap, RECOFTC, through its V4MF project partner Pan Nature, hosted the aforementioned workshop, titled “Gender Equality and Social Inclusion in Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT): Policy, prospects and implications,” on 30 August 2018, in Hanoi, Viet nam. The purpose was to identify gender gaps and develop pathways to address gender gaps in FLEGT and forest governance mechanisms.

“A key purpose and focus of these gender interventions is to generate gender-based evidence together with capacity building of non-state actors on the nexus of gender equality, FLEGT, and forest governance, and providing recommendations for consideration into operational framework and processes of FLEGT and wider forest governance”, says Kalpana Giri, Gender Advisor for RECOFTC.

Viet Nam has set up the most conducive policy environment for gender equality and social inclusion.  For instance, the recent Forestry Law 2017 includes provisions on gender equality, relating to the right and equal opportunities to access production materials in forested lands, the right to be recognized by properties and contributions to forest development, and to be protected in terms of properties and related rights when forests or forest land is recovered in accordance with legal regulations. The 2017 Forestry Law also notes the rights to be informed and to comment on forestry developments such as national forestry planning and provincial planning in forested provinces. In so doing, the law includes the right to access job opportunities and rights and equal opportunities to access government incentives for trainings, employment support, sustainable poverty reduction and financial support. These policy provisions provide an opportunistic policy space to discuss and incorporate gender and social inclusion issues and priorities in FLEGT and its governance mechanisms.

The seminar discussion indicated that some level of gender discussion is already included in Viet Nam’s FLEGT VPA. There have been efforts to include women’s representation in negotiation meetings and core group meetings, and in some instances, targeted focus group discussions, risk assessments and capacity building were held with women’s group. Realising these gender insights, the VPA Joint Implementation Framework (JIF version 4, December 2017) also aims to improve women’s participation in the VPA implementation.

While these opportunities exist, there are also challenges.  There is no comprehensive study on gendered impacts of the VPA/FLEGT so far. Despite the Gender Policy 2017, gender equality issues are not properly acknowledged in the Viet Nam VPA document. The JIF framework and its strategic tasks still address gender too generally in terms of numeric engagement of women. There are also unclear guidelines on gender integration into VPA implementation process, forestry policy development process and VPA. There is inadequate knowledge and skills of state and non-state actors to enhance gender integration into VPA implementation at all levels.

Etienne Delattre speaks at the workshop

By the end, the seminar delivered a set of pathways for incorporating gender equality into the FLEGT process. “This seminar is a first step,” Etienne Delattre, Project Coordinator for V4MF, remarked. “We are venturing into a new territory, as the linkages between Gender and FLEGT have been left mostly unexplored, unlike in the context of REDD+. I am thrilled to witness the enthusiasm and commitment of the participants here and I am confident that there is more to come that the V4MF project is happy to facilitate and support.”

Moving forward, V4MF will undertake a set of activities to address gender gaps in FLEGT. Key imminent activities include rigorous gender analysis of FLEGT, enhancing capacities and skill sets of non-state actors on gender and FLEGT, and development of communication materials that highlight the nexus between gender and FLEGT.

Dr. Kalpana Giri

“A key purpose and focus of these gender interventions is to generate gender-based evidence together with capacity building of non-state actors on the nexus of gender equality, FLEGT, and forest governance, and providing recommendations for consideration into operational framework and processes of FLEGT and

Indeed, as noted on RECOFTC’s Facebook, “gender equity is a key precept to achieving sustainable poverty reduction, and V4MF is in an ideal place to contribute.”

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