Ghana visits Indonesia to learn FLEGT licensing lessons
With Ghana moving towards full implementation of its Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU on illegal logging, representatives of its forest sector stakeholders have visited Indonesia to learn about its experiences of reaching that goal.
The 6-11 August visit is an example of growing cooperation among timber-producing countries engaged in VPAs, which are a key component of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan on illegal logging.
Once the VPA is fully implemented, Ghana will issue FLEGT licences to verified legal timber exports destined for the EU. The licences are intended to improve access to the EU market as they automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation.
As Indonesia has been issuing FLEGT licences since November 2016, the Ghanaians wanted to learn about challenges Indonesia experienced during the deployment of its VPA systems for verifying timber legality and issuing licences. The team included representatives of Ghana’s government, civil society and private sector.
Among other things, the visitors heard how Indonesia has made information available to international buyers and other stakeholders through an online portal, and how it has interacted on licence issues with authorities in EU member states responsible for checking FLEGT licences.
The team met with representatives of Indonesia’s FLEGT-VPA Secretariat, and its Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Trade and Customs. They also met representatives of Indonesian associations of forest concessionaires (APHI), wood panel producers (APKINDO), wood workers (ISWA), and pulp and paper producers (APKI), civil society organisations, and verification and licensing agencies.
In the meeting with civil society representatives, the discussion focused on Indonesian experiences of independent forest monitoring. The representatives explained the importance of sustainable funding for civil society to be able to conduct their role as independent monitors in the long term. Indonesia has set up a trust fund for independent monitoring to address this.
“It emerged that civil society independent forest monitoring, when properly undertaken, enhances the credibility of FLEGT licences and ensures that all stakeholders do the right thing,” says Obed Owusu-Addai, programme officer at the Ghanaian nongovernmental organisation, Civic Response. “Access to timely and credible information is pivotal in ensuring that civil society as stakeholders in the FLEGT-VPA process can attest to the credibility of the process.”
The team also visited to a factory that processes timber into doors. They learned about the company’s chain of custody system, which uses barcoding to track each piece of wood. They also saw a live, real-time demonstration of the company requesting a FLEGT licence, having the request processed by the licensing authority, and being issued with the licence.
“Very good lessons have been learnt,” says James Parker, West Africa representative at BVRio, a non-profit association that promotes trade in legal timber. “They will help Ghana overcome the last hurdles to issuing FLEGT licences.”
Parker says areas that need attention include capacity building of the timber industry so companies can enter their own information for licensing. He adds that by making key documents available through a proposed public portal — as in Indonesia — Ghana would boost the credibility of its VPA timber legality assurance system.
Parker also says it will be essential to raise awareness about Ghana’s FLEGT-licensed timber and legality assurance system among consumers in the EU and in non-EU countries. This is because Indonesia says there has been little change in EU consumer demand for Indonesian timber since the start of FLEGT licensing, and that most consumers still know little about FLEGT products and the systems that stand behind FLEGT licensing.
To address this, Ghana and Indonesia agreed to urge the EU to do more to meet its VPA commitment to promote FLEGT-licensed timber products in the EU market by raising consumer awareness and having public procurement policies in EU member states recognise FLEGT-licensed products.
The two countries also discussed a goal of working together to promote FLEGT-licensed timber on international markets after Ghana begins issuing licences.
The exchange was organised by Ghana’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the nongovernmental organisation Civic Response, in collaboration with Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
The team from Ghana was made up of: Benito Owusu-Bio, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources; John Allotey, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Forestry Commission; Chris Beeko, Director of Timber Validation Department; Alex Dadzie, Vice-President of Ghana Timber Association; Obed Owusu-Addai, Programme Officer, Civic Response; and James Parker, Ghana Associate at BVRio.
Read the article from Civic Response: Civic Response organises learning and sharing trip to Indonesia