Between 2007 and 2010, with a grant from the UK’s Department for International Development, IUCN helped to inform and improve multi-stakeholder FLEGT dialogues in five West and Central African countries. A sixth country, China, was engaged in this project as a major consumer of timber from Africa, chiefly the Congo basin (see map opposite).
By harnessing its members, partners and projects (such as Strengthening Voices for Better Choices), and by linking up with regional initiatives and bodies (such as COMIFAC), IUCN was able to contribute to four main outcomes:
1. Successful negotiation of widely supported VPAs in Cameroon, Ghana and the Republic of Congo.
In each country, the project helped to support and facilitate studies, meetings, awareness sessions and other aspects of the VPA negotiations. It put special emphasis on informing and consulting with smaller, weaker stakeholders such as rural communities. In Ghana, IUCN played a key facilitating role throughout the VPA negotiations, stressing the importance of a long-term vision and strategy for multi-stakeholder participation. And, as Ghana moved into implementing its VPA in late 2008, the project supported studies of the agreement’s implications for community forests and its required social safeguards. Today IUCN continues to play an advisory role in the implementation of Ghana’s VPA.
2. Creation of a precedent and experience for multi-stakeholder dialogues in forest governance reform.
The project’s actions and messages consistently sought to reinforce the role of multi-stakeholder consultation in governance reforms. Some still find this role hard to understand and appreciate, even in relatively open societies such as Ghana. Despite this, beneficiaries in Ghana, Cameroon, Republic of Congo and other countries expressed support for multi-stakeholder approaches and a desire to use them in related contexts, for example national REDD preparatory processes. At the same time, IUCN was able through the project to clarify and communicate the roles it can play in multi-stakeholder processes of reform (see Box 1).