Guyana, EU committed to sustainable forest management and legality

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THE Guyana Government has committed to ensuring that sustainable forest management and legality are maintained and has since put in place legal and policy frameworks to ensure this continues.
Since its initiation, the country has made significant strides in eliminating illegal logging, and is currently holding consultations aimed at implementing a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) between Guyana and the European Union (EU).
At a press briefing yesterday, at the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, to provide an update on the EU-FLEGT programme, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Guyana, Ambassador Robert Kopecky, speaking on its importance, lauded Guyana for its commitment to ensuring that it succeeds.
He stated that unlike other countries, “Working with Guyana has been an easy task compared to working with some of the other countries who have signed in the VPA on the EU FLEGT programme.”
The EU is currently one of the largest global markets for timber and timber produce, with over 500 million consumers. It adopted the EU- FLEGT Action Plan in 2003, in recognition of the increased public concern on the social consequences of illegal logging.
“This FLEGT programme is important; it is about logging in a responsible way, controlling the extraction and low sustainability…it targets its main partners all over the world which is almost 13 countries,” he said.
The negotiation between the two countries will run for a two – year period, but Ambassador Kopecky is hopeful that an agreement will be met before the stipulated time frame. The inking of this agreement will finalise the process to ensure that illegal logging is eliminated.
Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persaud, stated that the EU remains an important market for Guyana’s timber produce as the FLEGT programme will allow the country to advance.
Over the last five years, Guyana exported approximately US$30M in timber products and, Minister Persaud remains optimistic that this figure will increase by the end of this year, as the onus is upon government to ensure that the market is preserved.
The efforts taken to join the EU partnership scheme, in terms of forestry, will certainly allow Guyana to continue to have access to that market, because its product will be deemed certified and meet the different standards, he said.
Since the beginning of the programme, extensive consultations have been held before a decision was made to negotiate with the EU. With additional support from the EU technical officers, consultations were held with the relevant stakeholders over an 18- month period.
“At the end of that process, we have had the buy in and support of the forest community. So this is not an initiative that is being taken by the forestry commission singularly, but rather an initiative that has the backing and encouragement from the wider stakeholdership,” he said.
During the consultation exercises, major issues were addressed, including the implications of the VPA on land use such as agriculture, forestry and mining; the impact on indigenous peoples and their titled lands for the continuity of commercial and subsistence activities, and the potential costs associated with meeting the requirements of the VPA.
Moving ahead with the agreement is essential in reinforcing the country’s commitment to sustainable management and utilisation of its natural resources. Guyana, at present, boasts approximately 18.3M hectares of tropical rainforest with a deforestation rate of 0.056 percent as of last year.
Despite the continual mining and logging trade, the country is still able to maintain its forest and has since been receiving kudos from many international partners and countries within the wider sector.
“The eventual signing of the partnership would certainly help Guyana to make an example, where we are able to fully develop and utilise our natural resources….this here will not in any way restrict the activities that we have embarked on, be[it] in mining or forestry,” he said.
An Independent Forest Assessment was also completed which has independently verified the legality and sustainable premise on which activities are conducted within the forestry sector.
A national team will be constituted shortly, which will represent Guyana fully in negotiations in this regard.
Cognisant of the fact that illegal logging and its associated trade pose a significant threat to financial, technical and trading links among companies within timber producing and consuming countries, government decided to opt in on the agreement to ensure that this is eliminated.
Over the past years, Guyana has made significant strides in building on this foundation, both at the regional and national levels, through a collaborative effort with several countries, including the United States, EU and Norway.
Upon  completion of the agreement, the VPA will be used as a legal, binding agreement for Guyana and the EU.