When will the multistakeholder process for Guyana’s forests begin?

Dear Editor,

The National Forest Policy of 1997 required the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) to produce a strategic plan for the rational allocation of Guyana’s State Forests.  This requirement figures also in the National Forest Plan of 2001.  The GFC has not yet produced this plan, but is now referring to a sector development plan (KN, March 7, 2009 ‘Forestry Commission moves to reduce log exports,’ and KN, March 12, 2009 ‘Govt. moves to cushion forestry sector from global crisis’).  This plan is not to be found on the GFC website.  Why not?  KN reported (March 12) Minister Robert Persaud as “promoting the advantage that Guyana’s products possess in terms of export being derived from a system characterized by a strong chain of custody system in place,” although this is manifestly untrue as shown by the 2007 and 2008 token penalties imposed on the holders of long-term logging concessions, both Guyanese and Asian, and widely reported in the independent press, showing that the chain of custody exists only on paper but not in practice.  Further, the elements of this supposed chain of custody are also not to be found on the GFC website.

Meanwhile, both the President and the GFC Commissioner have recently been making claims about Guyana’s forests at international meetings (SN, March 9, 2009 ‘Jagdeo plugs avoided deforestation at carbon finance summit,’ and the GFC Commissioner at the Forest Carbon Partnership Fund meeting in Panama on March 11) which are misleading or factually incorrect.  Why are these public statements also not on the GFC website and available for critical review?  The President failed to mention on March 5, 2009 in Washington DC the loss of forest because of the failure of integrated land use planning when mining and logging concessions overlap, while the GFC Commissioner brushes aside the degradation caused by poorly controlled logging, preferring to blame Amerindians. Yet under the GFC, some 187,000 ha are logged annually in 25-year concessions and some 755,000 ha in 2-year concessions (KN, November 16, 2008 ‘GFC’s misleading data on forestry in Guyana,’ but updating the figures from the GFC’s first half-year 2008 Forest Sector Information Report). In these areas, because of inadequate GFC field supervision, some 8 cubic metres of timber per ha are wasted (based on Barama’s data), a national total of over 7.5 million cubic metres, far greater than the reported harvest.  But the GFC Commissioner prefers to blame forest degradation on Amerindians whose rotational farming may cause temporary loss of forest of about 6,000 ha per year.

The GFC has no mandate in titled Amerindian Village Lands, so why doesn’t it focus on what it should be doing to improve management of the State Forests, using the powers it has long had but doesn’t use, to prevent the over-harvesting of our best timbers such as greenheart and purpleheart and red cedar; instead of allowing these to be exported without restriction as under-declared and mis-named logs to Asia?  This question − about the GFC straying from its mandate − was also raised by the Norwegian delegation in Panama on March 11, with reference to the Guyana request for huge amounts of money for Reduced Emis-sions from Avoided Defores-tation and Degradation (REDD).

In their ‘Joint Statement on climate and forest issues’ released on February 3, 2009, President Jagdeo and the Prime Minister of Norway committed to “bilateral co-operation… founded on a broad-based, transparent, inclusive, multistakeholder national strategy developed in Guyana. Crucial components will be… sustained efforts to avoid deforestation and forest degradation, strengthening open, transparent forest governance, and establishing an international monitoring, reporting, and verification system for Guyana’s forests.” (http://www.regjeringen.no/nb/dep/smk/aktuelt/nyheter/2009/samarbeid-norge-guyana-for-a-redusere-kl/joint-statement-on-climate-and-forest-is.html?id=544715&epslanguage=NO).

When is this multistakeholder process beginning, and what independent monitoring will ensure that this will not be just another series of government agency lectures to passive audiences on the McKinsey proposal alone?

Yours faithfully,
Janette Bulkan