The Ghana-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) has reached a major milestone. During the meeting of the implementation body of the Agreement, the Parties took an important step toward issuing FLEGT licences, that will attest to the legality of Ghanaian timber products exported to the EU.
On 26 September 2023, a high-level Ghanaian delegation joined representatives of the European Union in Brussels to hold the 11th meeting of the Joint Monitoring Review Mechanism (JMRM) of the Ghana-EU VPA on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). The FLEGT VPA is a bilateral trade agreement aiming at promoting trade in legal timber between both Parties.
This session of the JMRM was the first since May 2019, and the first to be convened outside Ghana. The JMRM includes Ghanaian public authorities in charge of forest administration, private sector and civil society, as well as the European Commission.
Negotiations and discussions were fruitful, leading to the agreement of a Joint Action Plan representing an important step toward readiness for FLEGT licensing. FLEGT licences attest to the legality of Ghana’s timber and will enable Ghana’s timber products to enter the EU market without having to go through due diligence steps. It means a significant facilitation for both exporters and importers, and improves the terms of trade in timber for the EU and Ghana alike.
In 2016, Indonesia became the first country in the world to issue FLEGT licences; now Ghana is advancing rapidly toward the same goal, which will establish it as the first country in Africa and second in the world to issue FLEGT licences.
During the sessions, the Parties also reviewed the status of development of Ghana’s timber legality assurance system (GhLAS). They also took note of the further improvements made by Ghana on the electronic Wood Tracking System to serve now as a decision-making system instead of a simple tracking device.
Furthermore, Ghana has undertaken important legislative reforms in its forestry sector that enhance forest governance and enable the country to meet the terms of the VPA and ensure transparency, generating benefits for communities and clarifying the allocation of all timber rights.
In addition to these advances, Ghana is also addressing illegal logging in its domestic market, as well as regional trade and is rolling out a new system for tracking timber on the domestic market that involves both suppliers and traders, and requires proof of legality through the chain of custody.
Through the VPA, Ghana is controlling illegal timber trade, modernising timber operations and ensuring forestry brings employment in the formal economy 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 which aims to improve forest governance and combat illegal logging.