The Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) notes with regret that Greenpeace International has chosen the occasion of the 7th Meeting of the Conference of Parties on Biological Diversity (COP7) to continue its attempts to dismiss the serious and substantive efforts of the stakeholder groups involved in the various consultations related to the implementation of timber certification in Malaysia, by denouncing the MTCC as “sustainable certification imposters”.
MTCC, as the organisation which has coordinated and served as the secretariat for the consultations, wishes to provide the following information and clarification in response to Greenpeace International’s leaflet:
Standard Setting Process
Since MTCC started its operation in 1999, it has facilitated and coordinated two nation-wide consultations, which served as the standard-setting processes for the purpose of developing forest management standards to be used in its certification scheme. The first consultation in 1999 used the Criteria and Indicators of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) as the framework for the forest management standard, while the second consultation in 2002 used the Principles and Criteria (P&C) of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as the framework.
The first national-level consultation held in October 1999 was attended by a total of 111 participants from 58 organisations representing the various stakeholder groups. The social and environmental NGOs cited by Greenpeace International participated in this consultation where they indicated that while in principle they fully support the concept and implementation of certification, they nevertheless raised some issues and concerns related to certification. The stakeholder representatives present agreed that some of these issues were related to the prevailing state laws and therefore were beyond MTCC’s area of responsibility.
The second consultation process took place under the multi-stakeholder National Steering Committee (NSC) which was formed in early 2001 following an FSC-MTCC workshop of forest certification in December 2000. However the same group of social and environmental NGOs withdrew from the NSC-led process in July 2001, even before the NSC could start any substantive discussions. The reason for their withdrawal was that they were not satisfied with MTCC’s response to certain “demands” they had made, despite MTCC’s explanation that it was not in a position to satisfy these “demands” because (i) some of these “demands” required amendments to the state laws; and (ii) while the other “demands” could be included in the certification standard, nevertheless the extent and manner of their inclusion should be the subject of discussions and negotiations with the other stakeholder representatives as part of the NSC process.
The consultations under the NSC process culminated in the national-level meeting in October 2002 which was attended by 113 participants representing 71 organisations (including 22 environmental and social NGOs). MTCC wishes to stress that despite their withdrawal from the NSC process, the door was kept open to these NGOs, who were kept informed of the progress of the NSC’s work and were also invited to the regional as well as national-level consultations.
Forest Management Standard
As a result of the standard-setting processes outlined above, two forest management standards have been developed and adopted by consensus.
The first consultation process resulted in the ITTO-based standard entitled Malaysian Criteria, Indicators, Activities and Standards of Performance for Forest Management Certification while the P&C-based standard adopted following the second consultation is entitled Malaysian Criteria and Indicators for Forest Management Certification.
The second standard is currently undergoing field tests in the three regions of Malaysia i.e. Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia. In connection with this standard, it is disconcerting to note that Greenpeace International has criticised the Indicators and Verifiers which have been adopted by the Malaysian stakeholders during the October 2002 consultation. It is to be noted that the detailed requirements in the forest management standard in any certification scheme are to be determined through consultations by the local stakeholders who are most familiar with the conditions within the region or country concerned. In criticising the standard, is Greenpeace International trying to usurp the role of the Malaysian stakeholders or trying to impose its views on them?
Implementation of MTCC Timber Certification Scheme
The MTCC certification scheme is being implemented using a phased approach. The standard currently used for assessing Forest Management Units (FMUs) is based on the first standard mentioned above. However MTCC is using a subset of the Indicators agreed, corresponding to that used in the cooperation programme in timber certification between Malaysia and The Netherlands, in line with the phased approach and in order to ensure a smooth transition to the MTCC scheme.
For the next phase of its scheme, MTCC will use the standard developed during the second consultation, once it has been further refined to take into account the results of the field tests now being undertaken. MTCC has set a target date of January 2005 for the use of the second standard.
MTCC wishes to point out that the use of a phased approach in the implementation of timber certification has been recognised as a practical way to assist forest managers to make progress towards sustainable forest management and its certification, especially for tropical forests. As Greenpeace International must be aware, the management of tropical forests is much more complex compared to temperate and boreal forests, especially when tropical forest countries are also developing countries.
Malaysia has just embarked on its efforts to implement timber certification and welcomes constructive criticism that will contribute towards the further improvement of our timber certification scheme. The standards and procedures used by MTCC will be subject to continuous improvements, with sufficient time being given to the forest managers and other affected parties to adjust to these changes.
Greenpeace International can play a very constructive role in helping developing tropical forest countries to achieve sustainable management of their precious forest resources for example, by ensuring that the FSC scheme has the flexibility to accommodate local conditions in these countries. Otherwise the present situation where tropical forests only comprise a small percentage of the total area of certified forests throughout the world, will continue, despite our best efforts.
MTCC wishes to reiterate its commitment to continue working closely with all stakeholder groups in Malaysia in the implementation and continuous improvement of its certification scheme, in order to achieve our common objective of ensuring the sustainable management of the forest resources in Malaysia. MTCC therefore welcomes any contribution that Greenpeace International can make towards these efforts and objectives.