Guyana and EU on verge of initializing historic voluntary partnership agreement

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After about six years of extensive engagements with local and international stakeholders on the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), Guyana and the European Union are set to initial the agreement in Brussels, Belgium.

A multi-stakeholder team which will be led by Minister of Natural Resources Hon. Raphael G.C. Trotman will head to Brussels for the occasion scheduled for November 23rd, 2018, to engage EU officials and initial the VPA.

Guyana’s formal commencement in this EU-FLEGT VPA process began in December 2012. Since then, the negotiation phase was led by a multi-stakeholder National Technical Working Group (NTWG). At the invitation of the EU, members of the Working Group will also be present in Brussels to witness the initialling ceremony. The group includes representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Ministry of Legal Affairs, Indigenous Peoples’ Commission, National Toshaos’ Council, Community Loggers’ Associations, Exporters of Timber products, Forest Products Association, Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association, Forest Products Development and Marketing Council, Guyana Forestry Commission and the Guyana Revenue Authority.

Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman.

From the negotiation phase of the VPA, key pieces of legislation were updated, these include the 2018 National Forest Policy Statement, and 2018 National Forest Plan. Additionally, following extensive stakeholder and Parliamentary engagements, the Code of Practice for forestry operations and the Forest Regulations were both approved and published in the Official Gazette in 2018.

Following the initialing, Guyana and the EU will then enter into the Implementation Phase. In this implementation phase, gaps identified during a “field testing” exercise in July 2017 will be addressed to allow for the strengthening of the entire system and eventual issuance of FLEGT Licenses.

The implementation phase will have support structures which will include a National Implementation Working Group (NIWG) which replaces the NTWG, the Guyana Government Coordination Body (GCB), and the Joint Monitoring and Review Committee (JMRC) with representation from both Guyana and the EU.

These support structures will develop the road-map plan for the implementation phase. This plan will contain activities by indicative timelines as well as cost estimates for the various activities of the implementation plan.  Work plan activities for the Implementation Phase will be coordinated by the NIWG.

The Implementation Phase can take between 3-5 years with an estimated cost of US $30M.Initial approaches have been made to the Kingdom of Norway, UK-Department for International Development and Food and Agriculture Organization to provide funding.

The VPA is the bilateral trade agreement between the EU and Guyana that expresses that exports of forest products as defined under the Agreement, meet the forest legality standards as jointly agreed to between the EU and Guyana.  This forms part of an accreditation scheme that give buyers of forest products from Guyana, the assurance that timber products have complied with the forest legality standards set in the agreement.

Great benefits will also emanate from this agreement, since under the terms of the EU Timber Regulation, products with FLEGT licences can automatically enter the EU market. This will allow for Guyana to potentially have access to a wider range of premium markets, especially those that require strong environmental and forest legality compliance.

A delegation from Guyana will also be travelling to the United Kingdom prior, to facilitate discussions on the complete lifting of a procurement ban on greenheart from Guyana to the UK. This VPA move will also see a potential addressing of this.

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