Guyana, EU ini­tial part­ner­ship agree­ment for le­gal tim­ber trade

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Guyana and the Euro­pean Union (EU) have con­cluded a six-year process of ne­go­ti­a­tions to pro­mote trade in le­gal wood prod­ucts and en­sure the sus­tain­able for­est man­age­ment.

A Vol­un­tary Part­ner­ship Agree­ment (VPA) on For­est Law En­force­ment, Gov­er­nance and Trade (FLEGT) was ini­tialled at a spe­cial cer­e­mony at Ber­lay­mont Hall in Brus­sels, Bel­gium last Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, which has de­scribed the event as “his­toric.”

The ini­tialling was done by Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Raphael Trot­man on be­half of the Co-op­er­a­tive Repub­lic of Guyana, and Deputy Di­rec­tor Gen­eral for the Direc­torate-Gen­eral for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (DG DEVCO) Mar­jeta Jager on be­half of the EU.

Ac­cord­ing to a me­dia re­lease dis­sem­i­nated by the Del­e­ga­tion of the EU to Guyana, this new agree­ment will give EUbased tim­ber buy­ers as­sur­ance that tim­ber prod­ucts from Guyana are le­gal and will also help to im­prove for­est gov­er­nance, tackle il­le­gal log­ging and pro­mote trade in ver­i­fied le­gal tim­ber prod­ucts.

Through the VPA, the EU Del­e­ga­tion re­lease said Guyana will “tackle trade in tim­ber that has been il­le­gally har­vested, trans­ported or pro­cessed,” and in this way mar­ket ac­cess for law-abid­ing busi­nesses will be im­proved and there will be the mod­erni­sa­tion of the forestry sec­tor, cre­ation of jobs, pro­mo­tion of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and the pro­tec­tion the rights of in­dige­nous peo­ples.

Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment Neven Mim­ica was quoted as say­ing, “This is an im­por­tant step to­wards pro­mot­ing the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of tim­ber trade, pro­tect­ing our planet and at the same time cre­at­ing jobs and con­tribut­ing to the com­pet­i­tive­ness of the forestry sec­tor. The EU is com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing Guyana’s ef­forts to im­ple­ment the Vol­un­tary Part­ner­ship Agree­ment in the years ahead.”

Trot­man, ac­cord­ing to the EU re­lease, said, “The forestry sec­tor in Guyana is an im­por­tant con­trib­u­tor to the na­tional econ­omy, gen­er­at­ing jobs and help­ing to re­duce poverty. The Vol­un­tary Part­ner­ship Agree­ment with the EU will help Guyana to de­velop the sec­tor by im­prov­ing for­est man­age­ment and gov­er­nance. By root­ing out il­le­gal­ity, it will boost trade and con­trib­ute to Guyana’s goals on cli­mate change, bio­di­ver­sity conservation and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.”

The agree­ment, it was ex­plained, will en­ter into force as soon as the EU and Guyana have com­pleted their in­ter­nal pro­ce­dures for sign­ing and rat­i­fy­ing it. To im­ple­ment the agree­ment, Guyana will de­velop sys­tems and pro­ce­dures to ver­ify that all tim­ber and tim­ber prod­ucts com­ply with rel­e­vant laws and reg­u­la­tions. “Among other things, this means en­sur­ing that log­gers don’t fell more trees than they are al­lowed to har­vest, fac­to­ries up­hold health and safety reg­u­la­tions, and com­pa­nies pay suf­fi­cient taxes,” the re­lease added.

This process, the re­lease noted, will in­volve iden­ti­fy­ing and ad­dress­ing pos­si­ble gaps in the for­est al­lo­ca­tion process and in the le­gal frame­work, up­grad­ing sys­tems for track­ing wood through the sup­ply chain, im­prov­ing pro­ce­dures for ver­i­fy­ing le­gal com­pli­ance, and sup­port­ing Guyana in de­vel­op­ing ap­proaches for en­sur­ing that the tra­di­tional rights of Amerindian peo­ples are not im­peded.

Ad­di­tion­ally, this process will also in­clude the es­tab­lish­ment of in­de­pen­dent au­dits, a com­plaints mech­a­nism, and sys­tems and pro­ce­dures for mak­ing in­for­ma­tion on the for­est sec­tor pub­licly avail­able. This process will be ac­com­pa­nied by a joint over­sight of progress by the EU and Guyana.

Once the VPA is fully im­ple­mented, Guyana’s ship­ments of tim­ber prod­ucts to the EU will have to be ac­com­pa­nied by a FLEGT li­cence, demon­strat­ing their le­gal­ity, the re­lease said, be­fore adding that “such a li­cence would cer­tify that the prod­ucts meet the re­quire­ments of the EU Tim­ber Reg­u­la­tion, which pro­hibits the plac­ing of il­le­gal tim­ber on the EU mar­ket.”

Im­ple­men­ta­tion phase

The Nat­u­ral Re­sources press re­lease ex­plained that the agree­ment sets an ex­am­ple for the Caribbean re­gion as it is the first VPA in a Caribbean coun­try and paves the way for fu­ture agree­ments to be signed with neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

It adds that Guyana will now head to im­ple­men­ta­tion stage, join­ing six coun­tries, Cameroon, Cen­tral African Repub­lic, Ghana, In­done­sia, Liberia, and Repub­lic of the Congo, which al­ready have FGEGT agree­ments with the EU.

In this im­ple­men­ta­tion phase, the re­lease said, all gaps iden­ti­fied dur­ing the field-test­ing ex­er­cise in July, 2017 will be ad­dressed to strengthen the en­tire sys­tem see the even­tual is­suance of FLEGT Li­censes.

“For the im­ple­men­ta­tion phase, the es­tab­lish­ment of sup­port struc­tures to de­velop the road-map plan for the im­ple­men­ta­tion phase is the first item on the agenda upon re­turn to Guyana. There will first be the for­ma­tion of the Na­tional Im­ple­men­ta­tion Work­ing Group (NIWG), which will be done through a very trans­par­ent and open process where all stake hold­ers would be in­vited to choose the mem­bers of the NIWG,” the re­lease said, while adding that all govern­ment agen­cies and min­istries will be in­volved in the plan to es­tab­lish a Gov­er­nance Co­or­di­na­tion Body. There will also be the cre­ation of the Joint Mon­i­tor­ing and Re­view Com­mit­tee with rep­re­sen­ta­tion from both Guyana and the EU.

The road map plan, the re­lease said, will con­tain ac­tiv­i­ties by in­dica­tive time­lines as well as cost es­ti­mates for the var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties of the im­ple­men­ta­tion

plan. Work plan ac­tiv­i­ties for the Im­ple­men­ta­tion Phase will be co­or­di­nated by the NIWG. The Im­ple­men­ta­tion Phase

can take be­tween 3-5 years with an es­ti­mated cost of US $30 mil­lion, the re­lease said.

(EU Del­e­ga­tion photo)

Min­is­ter of Nat­u­ral Re­sources Raphael Trot­man and Deputy Di­rec­tor Gen­eral for the Direc­torate-Gen­eral for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (DG DEVCO) Mar­jeta Jager ini­tialling the agree­ment on Fri­day.

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