Business News Wed, 11 Jun 2014

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Curbing illegal timber trade

Ghana is to ratify a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU) to halt deforestation and illegal logging, and to improve governance in the forest sector by regulating the trade in timber and timber products.

Once agreed, the VPAs will ensure commitment and action from both parties to halt trade in illegal timber -- notably with a licence scheme to verify legality of timber exported to the EU.

The agreements also promote better enforcement of forest law and promote an inclusive approach involving civil society and the private sector.

When fully implemented, the VPAs will position Ghana as the first country in the world to issue Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licences with the EU.

This will ensure that only legally harvested timber is imported into the EU from countries agreeing to take part in this scheme.

Ms. Barbara Serwaa Asamoah, Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources -- at the seventh Joint Monitoring and Review Mechanisms meeting between the representatives of Ghana and the EU, said the progress so far made underscores the country’s commitment to meeting provisions of the VPAs, as well as the national forest and wildlife policy.

“We see the development and implementation of this framework as a means to enhance understanding of the changes in livelihoods, markets and forest governance resulting from the implementation of the FLEGT VPA,” she said.

Ghana and the EU signed the VPA in November 2009 to address the problem of illegal logging and trade in associated timber products, adding that the initial roll-out showed that the system was fit for the purpose.

“Pilot operation of the LAS is already demonstrating that it provides a powerful mechanism to improve the transparency and efficiency of forest operations and regulation in Ghana,” Ms. Asamoah said.

She explained that the FLEGT licences may only be issued to timber traceable to legal forest operations in line with the Legality Assurance System (LAS) developed through a participatory process involving civil society, the public and private sectors.

The LAS combines field audits against a legality standard with an innovative wood-tracking system capable of identifying the precise forest harvesting area of all timber exported from Ghana, she said.

Mr. Claude Maerten, Head of E.U Delegation, said by implementing the LAS Ghana is demonstrating global leadership not only in the application of wood tracking technology, but in the field of forest governance.

He encouraged Ghana to take final steps toward full operation of the system and issue of VPA licences to enable the country to fully exploit new market opportunities for legally licenced timber in importing countries.

The internal EU legal framework for this scheme is a Regulation adopted in December 2005, and a 2008 Implementing Regulation allowing for the controlling of timber entering the EU from countries joining a bilateral FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU.

The European Commission has been given a mandate from the Council of Ministers of the EU to conduct negotiations in view of concluding such FLEGT VPAs.

While the European Commission is leading in these negotiations, EU member-states play a key role in supporting the negotiations and implementation. The first VPA to be formally concluded was with Ghana.

The Republic of Congo and Cameroon are in the ratification process. Negotiations are ongoing with Liberia, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Source: B&FT Online

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