Guyana and EU sign agreement to improve forest governance and promote legal timber trade

23 Nov 2018 - Brussels, Belgium - Initialing of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement between Guyana and the European Commission. © Bernal Revert/ BR&U via Guyana Forestry Commission.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that Guyana and the European Union recently finalised a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) under the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme:

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 will initial the VPA on November 23 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% 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 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 US$2 million, which amounted to 5% of Guyana’s total wood and wood product exports, according to the Chatham House Resource Trade Database.

Under the VPA:

Guyana will develop systems and procedures to verify that all timber and timber products for export and domestic markets 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, that factories uphold health and safety regulations and the companies pay their taxes. 

The exact ways that Guyana will achieve this will be developed during the implementation phase of the VPA, during which the EU and Guyana will have joint oversight of progress. This 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. 

The VPA 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, replacing outdated regulations that had been in force since 1953. This means that anyone seeking logging rights is now clear about the rules for applying, what to expect from the process and what they must do ensure they are acting within the law. 

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.

The FAO, the EU FLEGT Facility, and the  Guyana Forestry Commission all have more information about this important development for sustainable forest management in Guyana. 

[Image: ©Bernal Revert/BR&U via Guyana Forestry Commission]

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