EU hopes to sign sustainable forestry agreement with Guyana soon – Ambassador

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The European Union (EU) is hoping that Guyana signs on soon to an agreement that ensures only legally harvested timber is exported to the EU.

The agreement is the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). It seeks to ensure Guyanese authorities and harvesters comply with strict local and international laws that govern timber harvesting and the trade of timber products.

EU Ambassador to Guyana René Van Nes, during an interview on Thursday, said the agreement should allow Guyana to monitor its “very precious natural resources in a much better way.”

In 2012, a policy decision was taken by Guyana to enter into formal negotiations with the EU on a FLEGT VPA. In 2018, Guyana and the EU concluded negotiations and initialed the VPA.

However, Guyana and the EU are set to sign and ratify the VPA where its commitments will become legally binding.

The FLEGT initiative was created by the EU in response to the global issue of illegal logging and is supported by an Action Plan that sets out a range of measures to address forest governance and law enforcement challenges in the sector.

The VPA, a bilateral agreement between the EU and a timber-producing country, aims to support governance reform and strengthen enforcement activities in the partner countries with commitments to improve transparency, accountability, legislative clarity and other aspects of governance.

“How can you make use of your forest in a sustainable way while respecting the rights of indigenous people, while making sure that it is indeed sustainable that you don’t cut your forest and you can only do that once and then it’s gone?

“How do you certify that that is happening? How do you fight illegal logging? How do you make sure you have the right legal framework in place? So all of that is arranged in the FLEGT VPA,” Van Nes explained.

The Ambassador explained that once the agreement is signed, there is a whole system that will start to kick in with a structure that will look into the implementation of the initiative.

“The resources for that will be provided and that should allow Guyana to monitor its very precious natural resources in a much better way and at the same time to reap the benefits of it,” he said.

“Cause to just put a big fence around the forest and say don’t touch it, that’s probably not going to work. So sustainable exploitation is probably in the interest of all,” he added.

He noted that the EU is also working on a “Forest Partnership” with Guyana and four other countries.

“That is something that is currently being negotiated, there is a Memorandum of Understanding that has been negotiated between the EU and the Government of Guyana,” Van Nes disclosed.

Those negotiations should conclude within the next month or so, Van Nes said, and the EU is looking for the opportunity to sign the MoU “at a very high level”.

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