Stakeholders knowledge on EU forest law mechanism boosted
A just-concluded forestry stakeholders’ workshop on the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme is a signal of Guyana’s willingness to boost its “outstanding track record” in forestry management, according to Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud.
Guyana and Norway in November inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreeing that Oslo would pay US$30 million ($6.2 billion) this year and potentially up to a total of US$250 million ($51.7 billion) by 2015 for this country to preserve its forests. One of the requirements under the deal is that Guyana shows evidence of entering a formal dialogue with the European Union with the intent of joining FLEGT and moving towards a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).
The recent engagement was the second this year and was organised by lead agency, the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), to better inform the government about EU FLEGT and receive input from stakeholders. Attendees were drawn from the National Toshaos Council (NTC), the Forest Products Association (FPa) and the private sector.
Persaud said the deliberations were “a major stepping stone” in determining Guyana’s next move in the engagement with the EU FLEGT. He noted that FLEGT was one of several programmes that dealt with forest legality, with others including the US Lacey Act and the UK requirements for tropical timber use in public projects.
“In our reflection on the outcomes of this workshop we will seek to establish a broad-based understanding on how Guyana will approach these new requirements and the most appropriate option of stakeholders including communities.” According to the minister, the government was conscious that FLEGT may potentially benefit many groups of stakeholders, including helping to stimulate markets, enabling Guyana’s exporters to retain markets, and increasing reporting requirements. He added that it was possible that the impact would vary among stakeholders depending on type of activity, use of the forest and level of operation among other things.
“We will have to weigh the benefits that EU FLEGT will offer against the costs that stakeholders and communities may encounter in its implementation,” Persaud said
Meanwhile, EU representative from Brussels and FLEGT expert John Bruneval said the workshop was a starting point and noted that there was still some confusion about the programme which he added was normal.
He said in deciding how to move forward Guyana needed to look at three areas, namely internal dialogue, clarifying the components of the VPA and address the technical issues.
“Moving forward is your choice, take time, there is no hurry. I think this is important and I think that Guyana has much more to lose if it enters formal negotiation quickly and if you decide to give up negotiations it would be a strong and bad signal for the international community,” the EU official cautioned.
Chairperson of the NTC Yvonne Pearson said the body was glad to be part of the consultation which she viewed as the first step towards “free, prior and informed consent.” She added that they learnt many things over the two days but questions remained. The Mainstay/Whyaka toshao said they would be taking their knowledge back to their communities even as she noted that it would take time to arrive at a decision because of the need to consult with their people.
And FPA President Hilbertus Cort in brief remarks stated that he foresaw no difficulty in meeting the standards of the FLEGT because of the discipline achieved under the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). He added that association has also drafted a programme to sensitise stakeholders in the sector about FLEGT.
The participants will now take the information to their communities and organisations and have three months to provide feedback to the GFC.
The VPA is a World Trade Organisation-compatible trade agreement between a producer country and the EU to work together to stop illegal logging. Although voluntary, VPAs are legally-binding on the twp parties, once agreed. Its goals are policy and legal reform; governance and transparency; capacity building; improve control, track and verify legal compliance; better capture revenues and rents; and secure and improve market share.
Under the 2009 agreement with Norway, Guyana will accelerate its efforts to limit forest-based greenhouse gas emissions and protect its rainforest as an asset for the world. Norway will provide financial support to Guyana at a level based on this country’s success in limiting emissions. This will enable Guyana to start implementing the LCDS.