Guyana and EU sign agreement to strengthen forest governance

The Ministry of Natural Resources on Friday signed an Aide Mémoire with the European Union (EU) under its Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) which is a critical component of the Forest Law and Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan.

The signing agreement was facilitated by Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat at the second Joint Monitoring and Review Committee (JMRC) meeting held at the Guyana Forestry Commission.

Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat and Ambassador of the European Union to Guyana, Rene Van Nes at the signing

Minister Bharrat assured of government’s continued commitment to the VPA as it sees great value in what it has contributed thus far and its benefits in the future.

“The JMRC is the body that is ultimately responsible for the way in which the agreement is implemented. Since it provides key oversight in the process,” the minister stated.

He explained that although another document was signed and ratified under the VPA, both the government and the relevant stakeholders will still have to ensure that momentum is maintained during the agreement’s implementation phase.

“The current timeline of the joint implementation framework developed by the parties identifies critical activities in the success of the issuance of the license. These timelines need to be adhered to. This may require greater effort from all sides,” the natural resources minister stressed.

He urged the stakeholders to work together to operationalise the Guyana Timber Legality Assurance System (GTLAS) which is considered to be the heart of the VPA.

Additionally, Minister Bharrat posited that the government is committed to enforcing legal and sustainable forest practices and as a result, considers the FLEGT VPA critical to the development of the forestry sector.

Meanwhile, Ambassador of the European Union to Guyana, Rene Van Nes, stated that the new agreement will see resources being increased to Guyana.

“As a result of the very good progress that you are making on the implementation of the VPA, it was decided to give you more resources. So, in the past, it was agreed that you would get two and a half million euros for this, this has actually been increased, you will get $3.8 million euros,” Van Nes disclosed at the JMRC meeting.

The EU ambassador further disclosed that the agreement will see Guyana and its local counterparts benefitting tremendously from other resources that will be provided by the EU such as an Information Technology system, which will allow persons within the forestry sector to monitor online forestry procedures.

The VPA would ensure that timber from Guyana is EU-certified in a manner that follows best practices in sustainable forest management. Talks on the FLEGT VPA began in 2009 with formal negotiations made in 2012 and eventually saw ratification and a formal signing being done in early 2023.