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Nederland wil omstreden houtkeurmerk uit Maleisië voorwaardelijk goedkeuren

Staatssecretaris Mansveld lapt normen duurzaam inkoopbeleid aan haar laars

Zeist, 3 oktober 2013 - Het Wereld Natuur Fonds, Milieudefensie en het Nederlands Centrum Inheemse Volkeren (NCIV) zijn verbijsterd over het voornemen van Staatssecretaris Mansveld om het omstreden Maleisische houtkeurmerk MTCS toe te laten tot het duurzaam inkoopbeleid van de Nederlandse overheid. Onder MTCS worden de rechten van inheemse volken niet of nauwelijks gerespecteerd en wordt oerwoud omgehakt ten behoeve van palmolie plantages.

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Malaysian Timber Certification System (MTCS)

Worldwide many indigenous peoples depend on the forests for their livelihoods. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), half of the indigenous population lives in the tropical rain forest, which is known to harbour 80 per cent of the world's biological diversity. The Netherlands is one of the world's largest importers of tropical timber, importing 481,000 m3 in 2012 of which 93,000 m3 was again exported by The Netherlands (Probos, 2013).

In the past years, together with other NGOs and parts of the business sector in The Netherlands, NCIV lobbied to make the timber market sustainable. As a result of this, from 2010 on, the Dutch government aims that all its administrative bodies procure 100% sustainable timber and from 2015 on provinces and municipalities too. In order to be able to decide what can be considered sustainable timber, the Dutch government developed the Dutch Timber Procurement Criteria. NCIV successfully advocated the inclusion of safeguards for the rights of indigenous peoples in these criteria. Subsequently, the Timber Procurement Assessment Committee (TPAC) was appointed to judge which timber certification systems are conform with these sustainability criteria.

NCIV then started to actively monitor the work of TPAC. This led NCIV, in cooperation with Greenpeace and ICCO, to initiate additional research on the way the Malaysian Timber Certification System (MTCS), which had applied to be judged by TPAC in 2009, implements the criteria related to the rights of indigenous peoples. In March 2010 TPAC initially judged that MTCS was conform the Dutch Criteria, but after NCIV, together with Greenpeace, ICCO, WWF and Friends of the Earth filed an objection against this judgement TPAC came to a final judgement in October 2010 that MTCS is not conform the Dutch criteria.

The Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) then filed an Appeal against TPAC´s final judgement to the Board of Appeal of SMK (Stichting Milieu Keur) on 3 December 2010.

During this appeal procedure, the Dutch State Secretary for Infrastructure and Environment attempted to already include MTCS in the Dutch procurement policy. However, after an injunction procedure, on 20 June 2011 The Hague Court prohibited the State Secretary to take such a decision before the Board of Appeal delivered its judgment.

On 19 October 2011 this Board of Appeal delivered its judgement and dismissed the appeal lodged by MTCC.

Meanwhile, the Dutch State Secretary for Infrastructure and Environment, Mr. Atsma, on 17 November 2010, made an agreement with the Minister of Plantation, Industries and Commodities of Malaysia with the aim to resolve the main weaknesses of MTCS, identified by TPAC in relation to the rights of indigenous peoples, conversion of natural forests and public availability of clear maps of Forest Management Units. In response to the agreement with Mr Atsma, on 16 February 2011, MTCC published two instructions for forest managers and certifying bodies on conversion and on indigenous peoples. On 13 January 2012 MTCS published its new standard MC&I(2012). This standard supersedes the instructions of February 2011 and covers natural forests only.

On 6 May 2013 the succeeding Dutch State Secretary, Mrs. Mansveld, asks TPAC to assess whether the agreed improvements have been realized in practice by MTCS. In response, on 11 July 2013, NCIV, together with Greenpeace and WWF publish a report on the way MTCS implemented the agreement and request TPAC to take this report into consideration. On 26 August 2013 TPAC published its findings in a memo on MTCS in which it concludes: “that MTCC did not fully effectuate the agreement and that the weaknesses identified by TPAC have not been resolved.”

On 2 October 2013 Mrs. Mansveld informs the Dutch parliament about TPAC’s findings and expresses her intention to include MTCS in the Dutch under the condition that it will fulfil the Dutch criteria within 2 years. The parliament asked for further information which is delivered in a letter to the parliament on 2 December 2014. The parliament discusses the matter on 8 October and 4 December 2013 and in letters dated 2 December 2013 and 20 January 2014 Mrs. Mansveld responds to some of the questions raised in this debate.

Two legal opinions on the conditional inclusion of MTCS is provided by a Dutch law firm to WWF Netherlands on 15 and 24 January 2014 concluding that the conditional inclusion creates several legal risks. Mrs. Mansveld responds to these opinions in a letter to parliament, dated 19 February 2014, stating that the regulations in the procurement documents will be tailored to the temporary acceptance of MTCS.

A final parliamentary debate is held on 20 February 2014 in which two motions are adopted. One motion asks that TPAC will assess MTCS separately from the umbrella certificate PEFC, and includes field research in Malaysia and the other motion asks that if MTCS does not fulfil all Dutch criteria in two years it will again be excluded from the Dutch timber procurement policy.

The final decision of State Secretary Mansveld to include MTCS conditionally in the Dutch timber procurement policy is soon to be expected.

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Please find the documents related to this issue:

24. Parliamentary debate on MTCS of 20 February 2014

23. Legal opinion on conditional accaptance of MTCS

22. Parliamentary debate on MTCS of 8 October and 4 December 2013

21. Implementation of Dutch-Malaysian agreement

20. Dutch-Malaysian agreement to improve MTCS

19. Binding Opinion of Board of Appeal SMK, 19 Oktober 2011

18. SMK Board of Appeal, hearing 5 August 2011

17. Response of TPAC to notice of cross appeal by NGOs

16. Response of TPAC on Notice of Appeal of MTCC

15. Response of NGOs on notice Appeal of MTCC

14. Appeal of MTCC against Final Judgement of TPAC on MTCS

13. Letters of State Secretary Atsma to Dutch Parliament

12. Injunction Proceedings District Court The Hague

11. Response to Final TPAC judgement on MTCS

10. Final judgement of TPAC on MTCS of 22 October 2010

9. Additional documents after hearing of 14 September 2010

8. Documents related to Hearing on the objection of Greenpeace c.s against TPAC's Final Judgement on MTCS, 14 September 2010

7. Responses by Applicants to questions raised by TPAC

6. Questions raised by TPAC to Applicants

5. Responses by MTCC to questions raised by TPAC

4. Questions raised by TPAC to MTCC

3. Formal Response of Dutch government to objection procedure

2. Objection note and related documents

1. Media publications

About NCIV

Since 1969, NCIV is an NGO that supports the promotion, recognition and protection of indigenous peoples' rights. NCIV brings the issues and views of indigenous peoples to the attention of the Dutch government, civil society, business and science and works to encourage them to make a positive contribution to improving the situation of indigenous peoples at national and international levels.