Regional Seminar held to share lessons on FLEGT /VPA in support of the legal trade in timber
A regional seminar on “Sharing Regional Lessons on FLEGT VPA processes: Transitioning from Negotiations to Implementation” was held from September 28-29, 2016 at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown, Guyana.
This seminar was convened to share experiences and lessons learned around the processes of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) with the European Union (EU) under the auspices of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan.
The FLEGT Action Plan was developed in response to the problem of illegal logging and trade in associated timber products.
Approximately ninety (90) persons participated in the event, including Guyanese resource persons from Civil Society, the different scales of forest sector operators, the NGO Community including Indigenous organizations, Academia and Government Agencies; and international participants from Suriname, Honduras, Guatemala, Liberia, Ghana and the EU.
This regional FLEGT seminar allowed for the interactive exchange of experiences and lessons learnt from countries now in the implementation phase of their VPAs.
The meeting was provided with an update on the implementation of the VPA in Indonesia, which highlighted its success in being the first country in the world to issue FLEGT licensed timber that will enter the European market this November.
Presentations under the theme “Timber Legality Assurance Systems (TLAS)”, highlighted linkages of existing forest certification schemes to the TLAS, such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and demonstrated how this can benefit the FLEGT VPA process. Reflections from Ghana highlighted challenges and opportunities in implementing its own TLAS, throughout the long process of acquiring FLEGT licenses.
A special call was made by some participants to further integrate the rights of indigenous peoples into the negotiations of the FLEGT VPA between Guyana and the EU. The seminar participants recognized that there was a need for more discussion on this topic, and possibly channel non-VPA related issues to other relevant forums.
Major cross-cutting themes throughout the seminar were: the need to involve civil society and especially indigenous peoples, in the decision-making process relating to FLEGT licensing; the need for continued financial support in moving from the negotiation stage to the implementation phase and; the need for Guyana to highlight its forest sustainability capacity and be proactive in securing timber export markets in preparation for its eventual FLEGT licensing.
There was a general consensus that gaps in capacity necessary for implementation exist and some stakeholders identified the VPA annex on support measures as one mechanism through which these needs could potentially be addressed.
At the conclusion of the seminar, the Chairperson of the GFC thanked everyone for their vibrant contributions. She expressed the hope that all would continue to give their full commitment to the conclusion of the VPA and indicated that whilst this process may not be the forum to resolve all issues, one output of this seminar must be a formalized public process where these issues are acknowledged and forwarded to the relevant body for further deliberation.
There was a broad consensus that this seminar provided a good platform to share experiences, as well as a transparent setting where participants could speak freely. It was recommended that there should be other such engagements on a regular basis.