From negotiation to implementation: VPA countries share lessons with Guyana
Guyana needs to ensure that the transition from negotiating to implementing its Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU is highly participatory and receives adequate technical, financial and political support.
These are among the key conclusions of an international seminar held in Georgetown on 28-29 September 2016, to share lessons from other VPA countries that have made or hope to soon make the transition.
More than 90 participants from Guyana, Suriname, Honduras, Guatemala, Liberia, Ghana, and the European Union attended the seminar. The participants included representatives of governments, civil society, the private sector and academia.
They identified three key ingredients for a successful transition to VPA implementation:
- First, civil society participation is essential to promote transparency, accountability and other aspects of ‘good governance’ in the VPA implementation process. To contribute effectively, civil society must be strong, have a good mix of different groups, be willing to network and be aware of their respective roles.
- Second, the transition from negotiation to implementation will require financial and technical resources. Stakeholders will need to be aware of their expected roles in the implementation process, identify capacity deficits and obtain needed resources to fill those deficits.
- Third, the various country experiences revealed a key ingredient for the successful transition from the negotiation to the implementation phase of the VPA was political support. To safeguard against political risks, special efforts should therefore be made to engage members of both the government and the opposition in an open, participatory process that ensures the continuity of the VPA process.
In the case of Guyana’s VPA, participants noted that there are challenges to participation by key stakeholder groups, including indigenous peoples, loggers and the private sector more generally, and politicians.
Participants said there is a need to develop and implement a communication strategy to ensure that all stakeholders understand the process and their respective roles in VPA implementation. Structures and legislation are also needed to govern the participation of various stakeholders.
Participants also said consideration should be given to developing protocols to guide inter-organisational behaviour and the mechanisms for engagement among the various stakeholders, as Guyana moves from the negotiation to the implementation.
Other follow-up steps include capacity building, field testing of the legality definition and Guyana’s timber legality assurance system, and keeping abreast with the constantly changing market-based legislation within the timber sector.
In preparation for FLEGT licensing, Guyana will also need to improve the efficiency, quality and reliability within the timber sector and be proactive in market promotion in both the EU and at home.
Participants concurred that Guyana’s robust management of its forestry sector and its low annual deforestation rate of 0.06% would aid the transition into the VPA’s implementation phase. There is also potential for synergies between VPA implementation and other initiatives, such as REDD+, with regard to legislation, monitoring and other issues.
However, participants noted an urgent need to improve perceptions of Guyana’s forestry sector globally through advocacy by the government, the private sector and civil society to communicate the facts about Guyana’s efficient forest management and low rate of deforestation.
In particular, the Government needs to resolve the current impasse with the United Kingdom with regard to its non-acceptance of Guyana’s greenheart timber in its public procurement, due to the perception that greenheart production is not sustainable.
The seminar was organized by the National Technical Working Group and the FLEGT Facilitation Support Office in collaboration with the Amerindian Peoples Association, EU FLEGT Facility and EU FAO FLEGT Programme, Iwokrama and IUCN.
The National Technical Working Group will publish and distribute a seminar report, which will provide greater detail of the discussions and specific lessons shared by other countries.