Commodifying Legality? Who and What Counts as Legal in the Indonesian Wood Trade

Society and Natural Resources

Author/s (editor/s):

Abidah Setyowati, Constance L. McDermott

Publication year:

2017

Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Taylor & Francis

Abidah Setyowati and Constance L. McDermott, ‘Commodifying Legality? Who and What Counts as Legal in the Indonesian Wood Trade’, Society and Natural Resources 30(6) 2017: 750-64.

This article examines how legality verification in Indonesia, as developed under the European Union (EU) Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), shapes who and what count as legal. A review of Indonesia’s evolving legality verification system and in-depth stakeholder interviews reveal a process of commodification driven by international demand for an interchangeable label of ‘legality’. This interchangeability is produced through a reduction of forest governance to a narrow set of legal standards and third-party, private auditing, which risks obscuring key governance challenges such as corruption and unclear tenure, and excluding most domestic and small-scale operators from economic and legal recognition. Given the market logic of legality licensing, it is more likely to ‘ratchet down’ than ‘ratchet up’ local access to, and benefit from, wood production, unless there is greater support and investment in legal and tenure reforms and improved local benefit capture.

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