As Ghana gets closer to issuing Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licenses, it has been established that there is the need for strong and clear precursory information to the trade destinations, particularly the European Union, to be aware of the products that will be delivered and the national overarching system behind the issuance of FLEGT licenses.
This has a major lesson drawn from the launch of FLEGT License in Indonesia. It has become crucial that, the added value and processes leading to the issuance of a license has to be strategically communicated to the consumer in Europe and elsewhere.
It is therefore important to consider the messages that should be delivered and the engagement that should take place before, during and after the launch.
This project therefore addresses the need for effective information sharing on Ghana’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade – Voluntary Partnership Agreements (FLEGT-VPA), which is a priority area for Ghana as the country gets closer to issuing FLEGT licenses.
The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme, sorts to promote the implementation of the FLEGT Action Plan by improving forest governance, providing technical assistance, and building capacity through funding projects in eligible countries. In pursuit of these objectives, the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme has agreed to support the project entitled “Atumpan” – The Talking Drum.
In an interview at the official formal launch of the “Atumpan” project at the Forestry Commission Auditorium on Thursday 17th October, 2019, Mr. Samuel Mawutor, the Atumpan project team leader, noted that, the overall objective of the project is, to effectively communicate Ghana’s FLEGT-VPA processes, milestones and outcomes towards the EU market actors and other stakeholders, in preparation towards FLEGT licensing.
The 12 months project is being funded by the European Union, through the FAO and implemented by EcoCare Ghana, a rights-based campaign and advocacy organization duly registered and licensed to operate as a local non-governmental organization, with focus on policy and practises around community rights and forests, and how it relates to development, climate change, wildlife conservation, agriculture and other land-use options.
He emphasized that, “Over the past few months, the European Forest Institute (EFI) and FAO have supported trainings aimed at developing the capacity of key stakeholder to facilitate the implementation of Ghana’s FLEGT-VPA through coordinated messaging and information sharing. This project will continue to build on this foundation to fully operationalize key messages being developed to communicate the added value of Ghana’s FLEGT-VPA.
This work will also build on the communication strategy proposed by the Global Timber Forum (with support from FAO) which has highlighted potential areas and key messages that Ghanaian stakeholders and different audiences in Ghana, Europe and other trade destinations would be focusing their attention once FLEGT licenses will be issued.”
According Mr. Mawutor, “Projects if this nature just like to deal with specific problems. And the problem here is that, 5he EU market is not really aware of the processes and reforms Ghana has done in the timber sector, so we want them to understand that, in the past when timber comes from Ghana, you can question it. But now when timber comes from Ghana, your worries and your questions are addressed because we have gone through ten years of solving that problem. So they should understand all the achievement and changes that has happened.”
He further explained that, Ghana and the European Union (EU) launched an independent review of the legality assurance system that has been outlined in the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on FLEGT between Ghana and the EU, which seeks to tracks wood throughout the supply chain and verifies that products conform to national laws.
Mr. Chris Beeko, Director of the Timber Validation Department of the Forestry Commission of Ghana, said at the launch that, “This is an important milestone in the partnership between the EU and Ghana to promote responsible trade in timber.”
Saying, “Ghana is in line to become the first country in Africa and only the second in the world after Indonesia, with the right to issue FLEGT licences.”
He disclosed that, FLEGT-licensed products, automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation and so they are expected to bring significant benefits to Ghana and its forestry sector.
Mr. Beeko, notedthat, at the heart of Ghana’s FLEGT-VPA was a truly deliberative process where stakeholders from civil society, timber trade, academia and government met to discuss necessary improvements in the forestry sector.
Explaining that, “They discussed and agreed on what ‘legal’ timber meant and how to set up a system that would ensure that only legal timber could be exported and traded domestically.
This led to the development of the Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS). The function cf the TLAS is to identify, monitor and license legally-produced timber products. However, Ghana’s T LAS is far more than just a standard for licensing legal timber.
What makes Ghana’s TLAS so unique and exemplary is the processes to develop it and the added value that it brings to improving forest governance and achieving sustainable forest management. Adding that, Ghana adopted the multi-stakeholder process as the foundation to developing its Timber Legality Assurance System.
This, he said meant that,fc different perspectives of sustainable forest management were incorporated into defining and setting the standard for legality.
According to Mr. Beeko, Ghana’s TLAS is anchored on 5 key elements:
*Defining what constitute legal timber
*Clearly delineating the timber supply chain (chain of custody)
*Establishing a robust timber verification system (wood tracking system)
*Having a well-resourced body attesting to fulfilment of all requirements and issuing a license
*An independent third-party regularly auditing the overall system to assess its robustness
“Underpinning all these elements are the comprehensive multi-stakeholder platforms that ensure that, the system function effectively,” he noted.
On her part, Mrs. Doreen Asumang-Yeboah of Tropenbos Ghana, in a solidarity statement from Civil Society Organizations (CSO) intimated that, “The trajectory of Ghana’s FLEGT-VPA has been a long one and the issuance of licence which to many is the ultimate is still in expectancy.
Nevertheless, we believe it is for a good course, just as the wise saying that “If woman keeps long in the bathroom, then she is having a thorough bath”. After 13 years, Ghana is almost ready to issue a FLEGT licence, obviously, the long waiting would make some key actors especially in Europe fatigued and forget about the process.”
She said, it is therefore necessary to communicate the VPA and the value that industry has in trading in FLEGT licensed products from Ghana.
Saying that, “We are proud of the brand Ghana’s FLEGT-VPA because of the numerous strides it has made within the years. From the civil society perspective, we can talk about
•the robust nature of the process
•the capacity building it has brought within the forestry sector
•the multi-stakeholder engagements that ensure whatever decisions are made are in the best interest of all
•the promotion of rights of community especially with regards to Social Responsibility
•the endorsement of civil society by government and the mutual trust and respect for which reason the LI 2254 developed with strong input from CSO in Ghana.
•lately, the conscious efforts made to integrate gender in the forestry sector including FLEGT-VPA process.
I guess enumerating the achievements have reminded you of others not mentioned.”
She further disclosed that, “The only way to make the world especially buyers in Europe know about our FLEGT, is to communicate; and that makes the Atumpan project very relevant. We are therefore grateful to the FAO for supporting this project being implemented by EcoCare in collaboration with Forestry Commission; which will enable government, CSO and the private sector to collectively showcase and promote Ghana’s FLEGT to the world.”
“Again, we are happy because this project also reiterates the fact that “CSO” is not just interested in making noise but ready to partner government and private sector to advocate for the needed change,” Mrs. Doreen Sumang-Yeboah, reemphasized.