Ghanaian Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the environmental sector have urged the European Commission not to re-tabled confiscated timber as a precondition for Ghana’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement(VPA) readiness.
This was contained in a press release issued at the end of a Legal Working Group meeting held in Accra in June 2022. The meeting was attended by stakeholders in the forestry sector including the ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the European Union, Forest Industries Association of Ghana (FIAG) and CSOs.
According to the statement, “confiscated timber is recognised as a legal source of timber and was accepted and included in the legality definition in the GH-EU VPA Agreement.” And that “the re-tabling of the issue of confiscated timber at this stage of the VPA implementation process in Ghana and presenting it as precondition to be addressed before moving towards licensing may unduly further delay or derail the VPA implementation process.”
The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) is a trade agreement signed between Ghana and the European Union (EU) in 2009 to trade in legal timber in both the domestic and export markets with the ultimate aim of issuing Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licences as prove of the legality of the timber.
Since then, Ghana’s forestry sector has undergone major policy reforms to make the issuance of FLEGT licences possible. In April 2022, cabinet approved the conversion of one hundred and fifty-six (156) extant timber concessions and permits into Timber Utilisation Contracts (TUC). This was the final heddle Ghana needed to overcome in order to issue the licence. The minister of Lands and Natural resources is currently signing these TUC which will then be sent to parliament for approval.
However, it came to light during the Legal Working Group meeting that the EU wanted to re-table confiscated timber as a prerequisite for the issuance of FLEGT licence to the dismay of the CSOs. To them, the issue has already been addressed.
According to the CSOs, regardless of the reason or basis for the EU re-tabling the issue of confiscated timber, “it cannot outweigh the years of efforts put into legal reform, system change and addressing the technical issues raised in Joint Assessment Report all in a bid to get Ghana towards the issuance of FLEGT licenses.”
“The current practice on how Ghana deals with confiscated Rosewood timber where such timber is donated for social purposes and not released into the supply chain for export or use on the domestic market is progressive and aligns with the commitment of stemming the trade in illegal Rosewood lumber” the statement added.
Download Press Release Here