A fresh development is the Ghana Timber Transparency Portal. The website, launched in March, provides real-time access to information on logging permits, companies and areas, and on timber exports to different markets. It will help foreign importers perform due diligence on Ghanaian supplies while giving independent monitors here the information they need to scrutinise the sector.
“Without credible information, it is not possible for local communities or civil society to work to address illegalities in the forest sector,” said Samuel Mawutor, coordinator of Forest Watch Ghana in a statement. “The development of the portal comes as good news to civil society, and also demonstrates the commitment of the Forestry Commission to be open about forest management.”
The portal resulted from a collaboration between the Forestry Commission and civil society organisation Civic Response that, not long ago, would have been unthinkable. “In 2004, the relationship between civil society organisations and the Forestry Commission was confrontational and full of suspicion of each other’s intents,” says Albert Katako, head of Civic Response.
What brought them together was Ghana’s decision to pursue a trade agreement with the European Union (EU) to address illegal logging, improve forest governance and promote trade in legal timber products. Ghana and the EU signed the agreement 2009 and have been implementing it since then.
The Government came to realise that civil society organisations were not only out to criticise but were bringing useful information and analysis, says Katako. This earned these organisations a seat at all consultative processes in the sector, he says. Today, the Government, timber industry and civil society now deliberate together on forest governance and law enforcement, working together to develop legislative reforms and improve systems.
Katako says that, unlike in the past, collaborative stakeholder processes to address issues and achieve shared objectives have become institutionalised in the sector. “The forest sector is leading the way in transparency and accountability for other sectors to emulate.”
The new spirit of partnership is exemplified by a package of policies and reforms the Government has developed recently in consultation with people affected. “They are based on consensus, meaning every stakeholder has ceded some positions to reach an acceptable text for the law,” says Mawutor of Forest Watch Ghana.