Climbing the ladder of participation
The government has taken up many of the points raised by nongovernmental organizations in the VPA’s legality definition.
Hoang Xuan Thuy
“The government has taken up many of the points raised by nongovernmental organizations in the VPA’s legality definition,” says Hoang.
Having proven their value, the government has now formally recognized these contributions of civil society. The VPA, which took effect in June 2019, says that non-state actors including nongovernmental organizations, communities and forest-dependent people will continue to participate in the implementation and monitoring of the VPA. The government has also included civil society in the core group of stakeholders it set up to provide technical support for it and the EU when implementing the VPA.
“Now we are one of the quite strong actors in this process,” says Hoang. “Much of our feedback and comments have been taken by the government to improve policy, such as stakeholder participation in monitoring of legal timber sourcing.”
But while participation has improved markedly since the start of negotiations, Viet Nam is still far from the top of the ladder.
“The government needs to be more open to take into account our comments and feedback,” says Hoang. “It seems to be open but there is still very limited opportunity for civil society organizations to influence it. Also, the time that a draft law is open for comment is very short. For some issues, we need more time to collect evidence or do research.”
Civil society groups also sometimes feel like they are left in the dark. They have given feedback on a draft decree to establish a system for verifying the legality of timber products, for example, but they don’t know yet if the government has taken their ideas on board. Asked if NGOs are happy, Hoang replies with a chuckle: “Not yet.”
The climb up the ladder continues.