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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.