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Guyana-EU Agree on Roadmap to Improve Forest Governance, Reduce Illegal Timber Trade

Guyana and the European Union (EU) on Thursday, agreed on a detailed roadmap for implementing the Guyana-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which aims to improve forest governance and verify the trade in legal timber.

The aide-mémoire was signed by Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat and EU Ambassador to Guyana, His Excellency, Fernando Ponz Cantó, at the Pegasus hotel after a meeting with the various stakeholders.

Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat, M.P and Ambassador of the European Union to Guyana, Fernando Ponz Cantó sign the agreement.

“In no way the FLEGT VPA or the Low Carbon Development Strategy, that is in the consultative process right now is speaking towards reduction in forest activities, reduction in harvesting or the production of wood products, what it speaks to directly is the sustainability of it, how inclusive the process is and also, and importantly how legal, the operation and the products are,” Minister Bharrat said.

He made it clear that the agreement in no way means that the country is “cutting down” on forest activities, but ensuring that it is done in a sustainable, legal manner.

He noted that Guyana has one of the best forest management systems in the world.

“We are way above in terms of the management, in terms of sustainability and eradicating illegal logging,” Minister Bharrat noted.

The Minister said the government has been successful in tackling illegal logging, making more resources available to the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC).

The administration has also taken steps to curb illegal mining, allocating more than 100 small concessions to small loggers and their associations in Regions One and Ten, and monitoring activities. 

Meanwhile, the EU Ambassador noted that the concerns raised about the forestry regulation are currently being discussed in Europe.

“In any case we are aware that Guyana is in a situation where it has preserved its forest, I have to congratulate you for that,” he said.    

He noted that it is timely to have the FLEGT VPA continue to preserve the forest.

“The FLEGT VPA is going to be a formidable tool for ultimately helping Guyana and helping all of you to preserve the forest, but also to use it for the benefit of your communities, for the benefit of Guyanese in a way that it is inclusive, that it is sustainable and in a way that the forest continues to be this treasure that you have, but also provides for the current and for the future generations,” EU Ambassador said.

During the meeting, the parties discussed the establishment of the Guyana-EU VPA Joint Monitoring and Review Committee (JMRC), which will oversee the implementation of the agreement and includes representatives of all stakeholder groups.

Guyana is committed to making funds available to support the implementation of the VPA. Additional financial support is provided by the EU, Norway, and the UK.

The next meeting of the parties is expected before the end of 2022.

The VPA negotiations began in December 2012. They involved the private sector, government ministries and agencies, and indigenous peoples.

Source: Guyana Forestry Commission

Virtual Learning Event on the FLEGT VPA Sees Significant Participation

Approximately 100 engaged forest sector stakeholders, representatives from civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and other persons from across Guyana and the world came together between November 10 to 13 2020 on virtual platforms, Zoom and Facebook, for the ‘Markets, Technologies and Communities: Lessons and Experiences for the Forest and Wood Product Sector in Guyana’ event hosted by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC).

The central focus of the event was to support forest sector stakeholders in Guyana on key issues related to the implementation of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT VPA) by bringing together national and international stakeholders to learn from each other’s experiences, share lessons, and build networks for collaboration.

Guyana’s event was made possible through partnerships with the World Resources Institute (WRI), the European Forest Institute Technical Assistance Project (EFITAP), the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland acting through the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations-European Union (FAO-EU) FLEGT Programme.

The event was inaugurated by James Singh, past Commissioner, and current Management Consultant of the GFC. In his opening remarks, Mr Singh noted that Guyana seeks to be as effective and efficient as possible as it moves forward with the VPA implementation and will therefore benefit from the collective knowledge of participants.

The seminar convened with a high-level panel that included Dr Alhassan Attah, former FLEGT Facilitator in Guyana and moderator, as well as the Honourable Fernando Ponz Cantó, Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Guyana, the Honourable Greg Quinn, British High Commissioner to Guyana and the Honourable Vickram Bharrat, M.P., Minister of Natural Resources. Members of the high-level panel highlighted the opportunities presented to Guyana through the VPA process.

In addressing participants, Ambassador Ponz Cantó said that the FLEGT licensing scheme is an extremely useful agreement between the EU and Guyana and, citing his involvement with Liberia and Honduras, noted the importance of the exchange of past practices for the country’s benefit. The EU Ambassador also highlighted that Guyana has the opportunity to be a pioneer in this form of agreement and, as such, the EU is committed to working with the country to advance the VPA process.

High Commissioner Greg Quinn reaffirmed the United Kingdom’s support to the FLEGT which he stated has helped Guyana, who are good custodians of its forests, respond to the illegal logging and related trade, deforestation, improve forest governance, continue its respect of indigenous rights and promote legal and sustainable timber trade. Further, the High Commissioner highlighted the support of the EU that has helped maintain transparency as well as clarify legal and administrative requirements applicable to the forestry sector.

The Honourable Minister Bharrat said that the VPA improves coordination and builds government and stakeholder capacity. The Minister said that the VPA offers significant benefits to Guyana beyond dealing with illegal logging and trade issues, helping Guyana maintain its reputation as a responsible forest nation while addressing development and environmental issues. Also, the VPA’s success, according to the Minister, is dependent on the exchange of knowledge and experiences between Guyana and other VPA nations as well as producers and buyers of timber to create synergies that provide the best opportunities.

Following the opening session, panel discussions focused on market trends, community forest management, and the use of information management systems to support the VPA implementation. These panels included participants and facilitators from the GFC and as well as representatives and attendees from businesses, organisations, and communities in Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, China, Colombia, Congo, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, Guyana, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Liberia, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, and the United States.

The first VPA Lessons Shared event in Guyana took place in November 2014. The two-day event was inspired by a series of global experience-sharing seminars and conferences hosted by The Royal Institute for International Affairs, also known as Chatham House, headquartered in London. Tropenbos International organised the event in cooperation with the GFC, FAO-EU FLEGT Programme, the European Forest Institute (EFI), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Forestry Training Centre of Guyana, Iwokrama Foundation and theIDLgroup.

In 2016 Guyana hosted its second VPA lessons learned and experiences shared event titled ‘Sharing Regional Lessons on FLEGT VPA processes: Transitioning from Negotiations to Implementation’ with representatives from ten VPA countries, the public and private sector, NGOs and community representatives.

These series of events provide a forum for alliance-building and partnerships, knowledge-sharing and research in timber-producing countries.

In 2012, a policy decision was taken to enter into formal negotiations with the EU on the FLEGT VPA. Guyana and the EU concluded negotiations towards the VPA in November 2018. Ratification of the agreement would commit both parties to trade only legal timber and timber products.

To learn more about the 2020 event, replay event live streams and access other information, please visit www.guyanaflegtevent2020.com.

Karasabai Consulted on the Guyana-EU FLEGT VPA

On February 9th 2017, the Amerindian Village of Karasabai was consulted on the Guyana-EU FLEGT VPA as part of the National Technical Working Groups’ (NTWG) 2017 round of stakeholder consultation. Thirty one (31) persons were able to partake in the day’s session which included representation from the village of Yamparo. The participants ranged from teachers, Toshao, senior councillors, and to a greater extent; students of the Karasabai secondary school. Given the number of students present, the FLEGT team adjusted its approach of dialogue, and thus conducted a more focused session, fostering discussions relating to the overview of FLEGT and the opportunities it has to offer for the country (at a national level), and the Amerindian people who are (or will become) engaged in the timber industry.

While Karasabai does not do logging on a commercial scale, each requirement for Amerindian villages as outlined in the Legality Definition were discussed. In this way, the team was able to encourage discussions relating to the support they will need in order to meet these requirements should they venture into commercial logging. Based on this discussion, participants were able to identify some key support areas. Areas identified included the need for capacity building in Reduced Impact Logging (RIL), Sustainable Forest Management (SFM), General Forestry Operations and First Aid.

Furthermore, requests were made for awareness sessions on employer-employee rights under the relevant Laws governing Labor and Labor welfare in Guyana, especially those relating to overtime, minimum wage, NIS, Income tax etc. Moreover, Karasabai strongly believes that workshops with the Ministry of Labor, EPA, NIS and GRA are critical in order to improve the compliance of Amerindian Villages with environmental safety rules, tax returns and NIS payments. With regards to the latter, Mr. Leslie Allen (NIS Officer for Region 9) was able to provide a general overview of NIS, its benefits, and the process of registering for NIS. Finally, participants would like to see the inclusion of scholarships so that youths from the various villages can benefit from tertiary education (in forestry) at the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA), for better job security and better manage their own forest resources.