Within the framework of the Citizen Voices for Change project (CV4C), a sub-regional workshop on the Open Timber Portal (OTP) was organised in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, from 7-10 November 2017. The aim of this meeting was to train Independent Observers (IO) as well as members of the CV4C consortium in the use of the OTP and other tools, in order to make better use of the findings of their missions, by ensuring that they are made applicable to forest governance mechanisms, such as the EU (EUTR) timber regulations.
Understanding the importance of OTP
The OTP is an independently designed online data management system developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in consultation with civil society organisations, governments, private sector and industry federations, with the help of key partners such as FLAG, REM, OGF, CAGDF, CODELT, CIDT, as well as support from donors including USAID, CARPE, UKaid and the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment. This tool, which is a more advanced version of the FTI, promote trade in legal timber products by compiling information from forest administrations, the private sector/concessionaries, communities and IOs on legal compliance within the forest sector. In other words, the OTP plans to promote legal timber through better access to information.
At the end of this training workshop, IOs from different CSOs were able to understand the OTP and its importance for their work. Therefore, awareness of the need to plan observation work in a strategic way by defining the criteria for prioritizing work, and to integrate how the OTP, Forest Atlas and Forest Watcher can help plan and prepare for missions is of importance. This all enhances the work undertaken in the field using the application specially developed for users to record observations.
From presentations to discussions
The four-day workshop held in Brazzaville also made it possible to give feedback on the functionality of the Beta version of the OTP. This resulted in the need to design and integrate a table of legal references as well as to adjust the reported deficiencies by the end of 2017 for actual use.