Ghana and the European Union (EU) have finalised an independent assessment of the legality assurance system described in the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on FLEGT between Ghana and the EU. The final report was shared with both parties on 31 December 2020, and they are now reviewing the findings and recommendations.
The assessment reviewed all aspects of Ghana’s licensing system to ascertain its fitness for purpose. The finalisation of the assessment is an important step in the VPA process, as it will inform the parties in their decision about Ghana’s readiness to issue FLEGT license.
The assessment concluded that the system was not ready. A major gap identified was the long-standing issue of conversion of extant leases to Timber Utilization Contracts, which requires the political approval of the Parliament to happen. Other gaps identified included the absence, or obsolescence, of forest management plans by the Forestry Commission, and the effective resolution of non-compliances associated with the supply chain.
Consequently, the assessment recommended that Ghana implement corrective actions to address the issues prior to launching the FLEGT licensing scheme.
Thanking the independent experts for their thorough analysis, the EU could not hide its disappointment in the failure of Ghana to start licensing. Ghana now has to work with resolve to crown its decade-long effort in the implementation of the VPA to address quickly all outstanding issues for FLEGT licensing.
“Ultimately, we expect FLEGT-licensed timber products to bring significant economic benefits to Ghana and its forestry sector, as they will automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation”, said Ms Diana Acconcia, Head of the EU Delegation to Ghana.
On Ghana’s part, the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, John Allotey, re-echoed the country position that “with the significant part of the Legality Assurance System (GhLAS) implementation behind us, Ghana’s remains committed to closing all identified gaps in order to come to the point of readiness for FLEGT licensing”.
The Ghana-EU Joint Monitoring Review Mechanism (JMRM), the joint committee overseeing the implementation of the agreement, will determine next steps based on the report. The next JMRM meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 2021.