The EU and Guyana have concluded negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). The new agreement will give EU-based timber buyers assurance that timber products from Guyana are legal. It will help improve forest governance, tackle illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products.
Through the Voluntary Partnership Agreement, Guyana will tackle trade in timber that has been illegally harvested, transported or processed. In this way, Guyana will improve market access for law-abiding businesses, as well as modernise its forestry sector, create jobs, promote sustainable development and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said: “This is an important step towards promoting the sustainable development of timber trade, protecting our planet and at the same time creating jobs and contributing to the competitiveness of the forestry sector. The EU is committed to supporting Guyana’s efforts to implement the Voluntary Partnership Agreement in the years ahead.”
Raphael Trotman, Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources, said: “The forestry sector in Guyana is an important contributor to the national economy, generating jobs and helping to reduce poverty. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the EU will help Guyana to develop the sector by improving forest management and governance. By rooting out illegality, it will boost trade and contribute to Guyana’s goals on climate change, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.”
The agreement will enter into force as soon as the EU and Guyana have completed their internal procedures for signing and ratifying it. To implement the agreement, Guyana will develop systems and procedures to verify that all timber and timber products comply with relevant laws and regulations. Among other things, this means ensuring that loggers don’t fell more trees than they are allowed to harvest, factories uphold health and safety regulations, and companies pay sufficient taxes. This process will involve identifying and addressing possible gaps in the forest allocation process and in the legal framework, upgrading systems for tracking wood through the supply chain, improving procedures for verifying legal compliance, and supporting Guyana in developing approaches for ensuring that the traditional rights of Amerindian peoples are not impeded.
It will also include establishment of independent audits, a complaints mechanism, and systems and procedures for making information on the forest sector publicly available. This process will be accompanied by a joint oversight of progress by the EU and Guyana.
Once the Voluntary Partnership Agreement is fully implemented, Guyana’s shipments of timber products to the EU will have to be accompanied by a Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licence, demonstrating their legality. Such a licence would certify that the products meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits the placing of illegal timber on the EU market.
The Voluntary Partnership Agreement negotiation process has already helped to clarify legal and administrative requirements applicable to the forest sector. In 2018, for example, Guyana enacted new Forest Regulations, which replaced out-dated regulations that had been in force since 1953. Guyana also adopted a new Code of Practice for Forests Operations to ensure that logging companies do not exceed harvesting quotas and that their operations are socially and environmentally sustainable.