(Georgetown, Guyana) – Guyana and the European Union (EU) have concluded a six-year process of negotiations towards a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which aims to improve the application of forest laws, strengthen forest governance and promote trade in legal wood products. Representatives of Guyana and the EU were expected to initial the VPA on November 23 (yesterday) in Brussels, ahead of each side signing and ratifying the agreement.
Guyana, a country with a clear forest vocation, has an area of 16.5 million hectares of natural forest; 5.5 million hectares are devoted to forest management, which represents 35 percent of the forests, according to data provided by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC).
VPAs are among the elements of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), which the EU adopted in response to the global problem of illegal logging and associated trade. The Guyana-EU VPA will enter into force after both sides have ratified it, triggering a period in which Guyana will develop a system for verifying the legality of its timber products and will implement its other VPA commitments.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) is helping to implement the FLEGT Action Plan in 25 tropical countries in Asia, Africa and America. Under this programme, called FAO-EU FLEGT, implemented by FAO and funded by the EU, the governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom work actively in Guyana to establish several initiatives that encourage forest sector actors to use forests in a legal and sustainable way, facilitating in parallel the negotiation and implementation of the VPA.
The Government of Guyana gave the VPA a high political profile at the national and sectoral levels. Guyana is one of 15 countries, negotiating a VPA with the European Union. During the negotiations, it consulted representatives of indigenous peoples, agroforestry communities, and the private forestry sector and government agencies. These groups also benefitted during the VPA negotiations from donor-funded capacity-building projects.
“The success of FAO’s support to the FLEGT process in Guyana is based on facilitating a multi stakeholder dialogue or in simple words to get people and institutions to talk with each other. The vision of encouraging the dialogue is also visible in the variety of organisations FAO partnered with. Crosscutting through all the project is the spirit of getting people and agencies who have not had much contact with each other to communicate and to address the problems which require the collaboration of multiple agencies and institutions,” said Claus-Martin Eckelmann, FAO Regional Forestry Officer for the Caribbean.
The EU is a major global market for timber and timber products, with about 500 million potential consumers, a key market for timber products from Guyana. In 2016, the value of Guyana’s wood and wood product exports to the EU was U.S. $2 million, which amounted to 5 percent of Guyana’s total wood and wood product exports, according to the Chatham House Resource Trade Database.
Addressing illegal logging
Illegal logging in forests causes social problems, environmental degradation and loss of important economic opportunities. With this agreement, Guyana will contribute to ensure that their forests are valued, managed and conserved for this and future generations.
The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme works providing technical and financial assistance through seven projects in Guyana and an investment of more than U.S.$0.5 million, promoting the creation and development of forest businesses and value chains of sustainable forest products with the aim of improving the governance and trade of verified legal timber products and the development of rural economies.