Introduction
BACKGROUND

Illegal logging and associated trade in timber products has been a severe policy problem for Ghana over the years. Illegal logging has contributed in no small way to: reduction in the forest covers of Ghana over the years, undermining the resource base of the timber industry, causing distress to the formal timber sector, loss of revenue to land owners and government, degradation of the environment.

One of the most recent efforts to tackle the illegal logging problem in Ghana was to adopt Log Tracking program. The Log Tracking program sought to establish a chain of custody systems capable of tracking the flow of timber from the forest gat to the consumer. In response to the market concerns for illegal logging, the EU which is Ghana’s main trading partner in timber products also initiated and championed an international campaign against illegal logging and trade in associated timber products under a FLEGT action plan.

EU-FLEGT INITIATIVE

FLEGT stands for “Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade”. Since its introduction, the FLEGT has introduced a change in requirements for timber trade with the EU, a situation that almost compels all EU trading partners in timber products to join forces to combat illegal logging at the international level under the FLEGT. The EU-FLEGT action plan sets out a range of measures that aim to combat illegal logging. These include:

  • Support for improved governance and capacity building in timber producing countries
  • Development of Voluntary Partnership Agreements- VPA with timber-producing countries to prevent illegally produced timber from entering the EU market
  • Efforts to reduce the EU’s consumption of illegally harvested timber and discourage investments by EU institutions that may encourage illegal logging

The main motivation for Ghana to join the EU FLEGT was the need for Ghana to maintain its share in the EU timber market. Another reason was the fact that the purpose of the FLEGT initiative is in sync with Ghana’s 1994 forest and wildlife policy. Ghana’s is also one of the pioneer countries for the African continental initiative-AFLEGT to fight illegal logging. Under the FLEGT arrangement, all timber entering the EU market is expected to have been certified as originating from a legal source. This requires the establishment of a legal assurance scheme. It expected that this scheme when operational, will establish a legal standards to be prescribed by Ghana. This will also require a definition for legality that must have broad stakeholder acceptance. This system of providing credence that timber products are from a legal source is being developed for implemented under the “Validation of Legal Timber Program”-VLTP by the Forestry Commission.

GHANA’S VPA PROCESS

The VPAs proposed in the EU-FLEGT action plan are voluntary, bilateral agreements between producing countries (FLEGT Partner Countries) and the EU. VPA’s set out the commitments and actions of both parties to tackle illegal logging. In 2003, the Minister for Lands, Forestry and Mines formed a VPA Steering Committee to provide strategic leadership for the VPA process as well as advice the Government of Ghana on the approach to the negotiations. The VPA SC is a multi-stakholder body with representation drawn from the government sector, Timber Industry and Civil Society. The SC meets at least once in a month to deliberate on issues.

Key accomplishments of the VPA SC so far include:

  • Definition of Legal Timber
  • Consultation Process
  • Commencement of Impact Assessment

One of the requirements of the VPA process is the need to consult as widely as possible stakeholders to attain a country position before engaging the EU for negotiation on a particular issue. Currently the IUCN has been engaged under an MOU with the Forestry Commission to engage stakeholders in consultation on key VPA issues. The IUCN is also tasked to develop and implement a communications strategy. The purpose is to b able to adequately and effectively inform stakeholders on the objectives, process and expected impacts of the VPA.

GHANA’S VPA NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE EU

The Ghana VPA has a standing negotiation team, lead by the Deputy Minister for Lands, Forestry and Mines. There have so far been two negotiation meetings with the EU. The first negotiation meeting took place in Accra, Ghana in March 2007. The meeting focused on defining the process for the negotiations between the two partners. The second negotiation session took place in June 2007 in Brussels, Belgium.

Ghana has developed a well defined Road Map that sets time lines for the execution of negotiation elements. Key elements on the road map for negotiations include:

  • Verification System Design
  • Definition of Legal Timber
  • Impact assessment Studies

The second negotiation sessions in Brussels also fashioned a comprehensive Action Plan Matrix that allows for effective program implementation, monitoring and evaluation activities. The third VPA meeting to take place in Accra, Ghana between 10th and 12th September, 2007. The key issues that were discussed include:

  • Definition of Legal Timber
  • Review of VPA Work Plan
  • Legality Assurance Scheme
  • Impact Assessment Study
  • Consultative Process initiated under FC-IUCN MoU

It is proposed that the final round of Ghana-EU VPA negotiations will take place in March 2008.

 

 
 
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