Timber legality trade restrictions and verification are a bundle of contemporary mechanisms triggered by global concerns about forest degradation and deforestation. The European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade initiative is a significant effort to not only screen out illegal timber and wood products from the EU, but also support trading partner countries to improve their legality definitions and verification processes. But by using bilateral agreements (Voluntary Partnership Agreements) as a key mechanism, the EU legitimizes trade partner nation-states as the authority to decide what is legal. We engage in a theoretical debate about the complexities of the meaning of legality, and then analyze empirical data collected from interviews in Ghana, Indonesia, Vietnam and Europe with policy, civil society and industry actors to understand how different actors understand legality. We find hegemonic notions of Westphalian statehood at the core of 'global' notions of legality and often contrast with local understandings of legality. Non-state actors understand these hegemonic notions of legality as imposed upon them and part of a colonial legacy. Further, notions of legality that fail to conform with hegemonic understandings are readily framed by nation-states as immoral or criminal. We emphasize the importance of understanding these framings to elucidate the embedded assumptions about what comprises legality within assemblages of global actors.
- Timber legality