After around six years of engagements, Guyana and the European Union (EU) are to sign an agreement that will bolster forest governance and address issues such as illegal logging.
According to a release on Thursday from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Guyana and the EU are set to initial the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) in Brussels, Belgium on November 23rd.
A multi-stakeholder team will be led to the signing by Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman.
Following the initialing, the release said that Guyana and the EU will enter into the Implementation Phase. In this implementation phase, gaps identified during a “field testing” exercise in July 2017 will be tackled to allow for the strengthening of the entire system and eventual issuance of FLEGT Licences. FLEGT encourages sustainable economic development in countries that produce or process timber and export to the EU
The implementation phase will have support structures which will include a National Implementation Working Group (NIWG) which replaces the National Technical Working Group (NTWG), the Guyana Government Coordination Body (GCB), and the Joint Monitoring and Review Committee (JMRC) with representation from both Guyana and the EU.
These support structures, the release said, will develop the road-map plan for the implementation phase. This plan will encompass activities with indicative timelines as well as cost estimates. 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$30M. Initial approaches have been made to the Kingdom of Norway, UK-Department for International Development and the Food and Agriculture Organization to provide financing.
The release said that Guyana’s formal engagement in the EU-FLEGT VPA process began in December 2012. Since then, the negotiation aspect was led by the NTWG. At the invitation of the EU, members of the Working Group will also be present in Brussels to witness the initialling ceremony. The group includes representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Indigenous Peoples’ Com-mission, National Toshaos’ Council, Community Loggers’ Associations, Ex-porters of Timber products, Forest Products Association, Guyana Manufacturing and Services Associa-tion, Forest Products Development and Marketing Council, Guyana Forestry Commission and the Guyana Revenue Authority.
As a result of the negotiation phase of the VPA, key pieces of legislation were updated. These include the 2018 National Forest Policy Statement and 2018 National Forest Plan. Following extensive stakeholder and Parliamentary engagements, the Code of Practice for forestry operations and the Forest Regulations were also both approved and published in the Official Gazette in 2018.
The VPA is the bilateral trade agreement between the EU and Guyana that requires that exports of forest products as defined under the Agreement, meet the forest legality standards as jointly agreed to between the EU and Guyana. This forms part of an accreditation scheme that give buyers of forest products from Guyana, the assurance that timber products meet the forest legality standards set in the agreement.
Under the terms of the EU Timber Regulation, products with FLEGT licences can automatically enter the EU market. This will allow for Guyana to potentially have access to a wider range of premium markets, especially those that require strong environmental and forest legality compliance.