The European Union (EU) is seeking to control the provenance of timber and products entering the EU market, through its
Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. Under FLEGT, Voluntary Partnership Agreements
(VPAs) will be signed with interested producer states, and these will involve the latter establishing ‘timber legality assurance
systems’ to guarantee the legality of their production and associated trade. This paper offers a contribution to the process
of developing FLEGT, drawing on case studies from outside the forest sector. Using a ‘discursive institutional analysis
approach’ it distinguishes four dimensions that characterise partnerships: actors, rules, power and discourses. Using these
building blocks, it abstracts some of the key principles for verification system design.