Independent evaluation by NGOs reveals fundamental flaws in SVLK allowing certification of illegal and unsustainable timber products
Jakarta, INDONESIA - Today, a coalition of NGOs calls on the Government of Indonesia to improve its forest management certification system known as Timber Legality Assurance System (SVLK). An in-depth investigation of SVLK and it’s implementation found a number of shortcomings, in its definition of “legal timber”, certification standard and criteria, actual certification of individual forest management units, and the performance of some certification agencies accredited by the Government.
On 27 February 2014, the European Union Parliament unanimously ratified the “Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement” with Indonesia. The Government of Indonesia promised to immediately ratify the agreement. The agreement establishes Indonesia’s SVLK system as a key instrument to ensure that Indonesian timber products exported to the European market are legal and originate from sustainable forest management.
However, the Anti Forest-Mafia Coalition identified fundamental flaws in the certification standard. The regulations that define the system have been revised almost every year. Each time the criteria and indicators for timber to be certified were weakened and timber sourced from companies with legal issues as well as operations in areas not legalized could be certified. Also, companies not managing their forests sustainably were able to obtain certificates.
“We emphasize that from the beginning SVLK was aimed not only at governing the timber trade but also at serving as an entry point to strengthen forest governance. Yet, our findings prove that SVLK has been weakened. We fear that this might encourage deforestation and human rights abuses,” said Zenzi Suhadi of WALHI.
The Coalition also found that SVLK can certify timber harvested not in full compliance with Government laws and regulations. There is a lack of chain of custody verification and the SVLK standard and criteria do not take into account applicable national laws and regulations outside the forestry sector. The SVLK audit does not consider corrupt practices in licensing, and there is no verification to ensure that licenses do not violate the customary laws of local communities.
“The fact that companies obtained SVLK certificates while being involved in corruption cases handled by Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) clearly shows that this system does not tackle corrupt practices. A KPK study on forestry licensing even indicates that this certification system provides new opportunities for extorting money from businesses,” said Emerson Yuntho, an analyst at Indonesia Corruption Watch.
The fundamental undermining of the SVLK standard since its inception may ruin the credibility of the FLEGT VPA which has already been in process for a decade. The goodwill shown by the Government of Indonesia and the European Commission to conserve forest and to provide welfare to communities may have been in vain due to the systematic weakening of the SVLK certification system.
“The investigation we conducted for about six months has provided undeniable facts that SVLK certification does not ensure that timber from illegal and unsustainable harvesting is not exported to the European Union. It needs to be fixed to ensure that companies in the EU and other countries do not import timber products which are not legal and sustainable,” said Nursamsu of WWF-Indonesia