News | 20.10.2023
Ghana will be the first country in Africa and second worldwide to provide the EU with export licences that verify the legality of their timber products. Meeting in Brussels, the implementation body of the Ghana-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT), which brings together Ghanaian public authorities in charge of forest administration, the private sector, civil society and the European Commission, reached an agreement on the last steps towards issuing FLEGT licences, marking a new chapter in the battle against illegal timber trade.
European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said: “Over the years, we have witnessed Ghana’s remarkable dedication to sustainable forest management and combatting of illegal logging. The dedication of the government and the forestry sector, in cooperation with European partners, has brought FLEGT licensing to within our reach. This achievement underscores the power of international cooperation in addressing critical global challenges such as deforestation and illegal logging."
The Hon. Minister for Lands and Natural Resources of Ghana, Mr. Samuel A. Jinapor, said: “Ghana has seen significant improvements in forest governance with the implementation and operationalisation of the timber legality assurance system. The impending issuance of FLEGT licenses to the EU market and licenses to other international destinations will be guided by the same legality standards. This will be the next logical step in consolidating the gains towards sustainable forest management and forest governance as a whole. Ghana’s commitment to the VPA, as well as halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030 remain absolute."
A FLEGT licence is an export licence issued by a VPA partner country for timber or timber products destined for the EU market. The licence certifies that the timber or timber products exported under that licence are legal. Timber and timber products covered by valid FLEGT licences automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits the placing onto the EU market of illegally harvested timber and timber products derived from such timber. It requires operators who place timber or timber products on the market for the first time to exercise due diligence to make sure that timber and timber products are legal. FLEGT licensed timber will not be subject to due diligence checks.
This cooperation takes place in the context of the EU Global Gateway strategy which stands for sustainable and trusted connections. Global Gateway is tackling the most pressing global challenges, including fighting climate change and supporting security of global supply chains.
A high-level Ghanaian delegation and EU representatives held the 11th meeting of the Joint Monitoring Review Mechanism (JMRM) of the Ghana-EU FLEGT VPA in Brussels on 26 September. Constructive discussions led to agreement on a Joint Action Plan representing an important step towards readiness for FLEGT licensing.
In November 2009, Ghana became the first timber-producing country to sign a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA or Agreement) with the EU. The Agreement entered into force on 1 December 2009. Ghana and the EU are now in the final phases of implementation of the commitments they made in the Agreement.
Under the VPA, Ghana commits to developing a timber legality assurance system so it can issue verified legal timber products with FLEGT licences.
Once Ghana’s timber legality assurance system is operational, Ghana commits to export to the EU only FLEGT-licensed timber products. The EU commits to allow imports of FLEGT-licensed timber from Ghana to enter the EU market without due diligence checks.
Ghana has undertaken important legislative reforms in its forest sector that enhance forest governance and enable the country to meet the terms of the VPA and ensure transparency. Through the VPA, Ghana modernises operations and ensures forestry generates employment and social benefits such as payments to communities through Social Responsibility Agreements. For the EU, the VPA contributes to achieving the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan.
A Delegated act will be adopted to this effect to include Ghana in Annex I of the Council Regulation (EC) 2173/2005 on the establishment of a FLEGT licensing scheme for imports of timber into the European Community.
Ghana’s representatives on the Joint Monitoring and Review Mechanism are drawn from government institutions as well as from the private sector and civil society. The European Union is represented by the EU Delegation to Ghana and officials from the European Commission in Brussels.