Based on new evidence and stakeholder comments from five civil society organizations, the Dutch Timber Procurement Assessment Committee (TPAC) has re-assessed the PEFC-endorsed Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS).
TPAC has revised its judgment and now holds that the MTCS does not conform to the Dutch criteria.
TPAC carried out the re-assessment based on an objection filed in April 2010 by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Netherlands, WWF Netherlands, ICCO (the Dutch Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation) and NCIV (Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples).
Reasons for the new judgment
TPAC states two reasons for withholding a positive judgment. One is the “overly restrictive interpretation of the rights of the indigenous communities living in the MTCS-certified forests”.
TPAC refers to the Orang Asli people who have been living in Malaysia’s forests for centuries, and states that “TPAC is of the opinion that this traditional use confers certain rights on the Orang Asli, such as the right to give permission to log timber and to receive compensation for logging activities where appropriate [.....] It has become clear from information provided by the civil society organizations in question, and in particular from recently published audit reports, that those Orang Asli rights are not recognized and therefore not always respected in MTCS-certified forests”.
The other issue is that MTCS permits conversion of certified natural forest to other forms of land use, such as rubber plantations and infrastructure development.
Despite the reversed judgment, TPAC still recognizes “vast improvements” done by the Malaysian Timber Certification Council over the past years.
What does the new assessment mean in practice?
It is now up to the State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment, Mr Joop Atsma, to take stock of the re-assessment results and decide whether MTCS-certified timber will continue to be accepted under the Dutch sustainable procurement policy.
If the MTCS scheme is excluded under the policy, it may be a challenge for public buyers to distinguish MTCS certified timber from other PEFC-labeled wood products. Products may not be shipped directly from the country of origin.
The five NGOs that raised concerns regarding the MTCS scheme also filed an objection against TPAC’s final judgment on PEFC International. TPAC is currently dealing with this objection.
The Dutch government is committed to 100% sustainable procurement from 2010 onwards.
Sources: TPAC and NCIV
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EU countries committed to buying green (16 December 2008)
The Netherlands approves FSC worldwide and two national PEFC schemes in timber procurement (17 November 2008)
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