Guyana position outlined at international forest legality workshop
AGRICULTURE Minister Robert Persaud said, Wednesday, that the Government has led efforts to strengthen forest legality to ensure access to traditional and new markets and is pursuing avenues to build on what was previously achieved. He was speaking to stakeholders at a European Union (EU) Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Awareness Workshop at Grand Coastal Inn, East Coast Demerara.
The participants included members of the Forest Products Association (FPA), representatives of the EU and United Nations (UN) Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), councillors of the National Toshaos Council, community loggers’ representatives and members of the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
Persaud observed that: “The European Union has always been an important region for exports of Guyana’s forest products. As an example, Guyana’s total forest products export value to the European Union, in 2009, was US$4.55M.”
He said, in 2010, that sum increased to US$8.1M, approximately 16.5 per cent of Guyana’s total forest export market, in terms of value.
According to him, the 16.5 per cent accounted for dressed and undressed lumber, piles and a small amount of split wood.
“There are, notably, no logs export to the European market, so far. Although the Caribbean region and the Asia/Pacific markets are the main export destinations, the European market has, always, been a steady and stable destination for Guyana’s forest products and can be considered an important niche market for some of Guyana forest products exports,” Persaud informed.
He said it is the recognition of this fact, as well as the international credibility of the EU FLEGT Programme, that the Governments of Guyana and the Kingdom of Norway, in their Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation, have, strategically, identified one of the activities, in accelerating Guyana’s REDD+ efforts, as the commencement of a formal dialogue with the EU on its FLEGT processes and the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).
“This workshop builds on previous Government of Guyana led engagements, which all have the common goal of sharing information and better informing local stakeholders, whilst exploring Guyana’s possible engagement in EU FLEGT, with the aim of entering into a VPA,” Persaud said.
He said: “It must be emphasised that forest legality is a cross-cutting element in all of these, in addition to forest legality being an important part of the routine work of the Guyana Forestry Commission. It is also, now, a key part of Guyana’s REDD+ framework, REDD+ Governance Development Plan and Readiness Preparation activities.”
Persaud observed that, if the Government of Guyana (GoG) decides to engage in this programme, it would have direct implications for much of the work conducted in various sectors, e.g., at the private sector level, operators in the forestry, mining, agriculture and other sectors that use or work with forest resources.
“It is my expectation that this workshop will continue to make these sectors and interest groups fully aware of any new requirements they may need to be compliant with, if Guyana were to join the EU FLEGT. At the same time, the governmental stakeholders should also be more cognizant, following this one-day session, of the changes that may become necessary to support a robust FLEGT engagement between Guyana and the EU,” he stated.
Persaud said, from an overarching perspective, the real value of this workshop is continuing the dialogue to identify what these implications will be, in a cross-sectoral, inter-agency, multi-stakeholder framework.
“If Guyana chooses to become a partner, I am confident that we have a strong foundation and many, if not all, of the elements in place which may, simply, need some refining,” he posited.
Persaud explained that one of the main focal areas of GFC work, in recent years, has been on forest law enforcement and legality.
“This has been due, not only to the legal requirements as set out in the Forest Act, but also to the recognition of the importance of legality in ensuring that the benefits from forest resources utilisation flow to the right beneficiaries; preventing unfair competition between illegal and legal produce; maintaining a low rate of deforestation and forest degradation; ensuring sustainable development of forest dependent communities; and mitigating against climate change in a REDD+ framework,” he said.
Guyana has in place modernized Forest legislation that reflect the thrust of the forest sector as the country moves into new areas of work, including Guyana’s work on the LCDS, REDD+ and sustainable forest management as a whole.
The Guyana Forestry Commission Act and the Forest Act have undergone an extensive process of consultation extending over 10 years and include inputs of key stakeholder groups. At the sector level, there are several key guiding policies and documents, including the Code of Practice for Harvesting Operations, National Forest Policy, Forest Management and Annual Plan Guidelines, Manual of Procedures for Exploratory Permits, Field Procedures and Manuals for Forest Inventory, and Silviculture, along with other important resources.
Persaud said: “In the first half of 2011, we will be subject to a process of independent forest monitoring. This, in tandem with the world’s first national level machine readable visas, will make our procedures and systems even more robust, credible and conforming to international best practices.”
He said, overall, these mechanisms have been enabled, over the years, by the strengthening of the institutional framework and the strong support of the sector and other stakeholders.
“We are acutely aware that the EU FLEGT is but one of the programmes, out there today, that deals with forest legality. Tropical wood product exporting countries like Guyana are now faced, whether directly or indirectly, with having to meet a range of new requirements, including those of the US Lacey Act, recommendations of FAO and UK requirement for tropical timber use in public projects,” Persaud said.
He added that, as such, included in the workshop’s objective, should be the establishment of a broad-based understanding on how Guyana will approach these new requirements to the satisfaction of all parties, recognising that each programme has significant cost implications for harvester, sawmiller or processor, exporter and the country.
“There will be need to ensure that any recommendations made are fully reflective and appropriate to national circumstances in Guyana; will bring added value to all parties; will not duplicate an undertaking that is already implemented and will be, truly, beneficial in its impact on parties involved,” Persaud cautioned.
He maintained that, while this vision may sound quite ambitious, it is necessary, as Guyana moves ahead with exploring the EU FLEGT.