FERN/Forest Watch Ghana Press Release: Cautious optimism as first VPA is signed in Ghana
External Press Release - On September 3rd, the EU and the Government of Ghana signed an agreement that may prove fundamental to the EU’s fight to control illegal logging and Ghana’s fight to ensure that its timber sector serves national development aspirations. The agreement enforces the requirement for communities’ to provide written consent before logging takes place on their land. It also commits Ghana to a participatory review of forest policy, regulation and institutions. European NGOs FERN and the Forest Watch Ghana coalition see the agreement as an important step towards democratic forest governance, reduced deforestation and reduced resource conflict.
In 2003, the EU adopted an Action Plan to control illegal logging. As part of this plan they committed to negotiate bilateral Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with timber producing countries to stop bilateral trade in illegally sourced timber and improve forest governance in producer countries. After three years of negotiations, Ghana is the first country to sign such an agreement. Other countries currently negotiating agreements are Cameroon, Congo, Indonesia and Malaysia.
"We are cautiously hopeful. The agreement provides a reasonable platform for strengthening community rights and resolving our biodiversity sustainability, rural livelihoods, official corruption and national revenue objectives. Now we must gear up for the real struggle - to move from print to practice” said Kyeretwie Opoku of the Forest Watch Ghana secretariat. “This agreement sets a good standard for other VPAs to come because it has been developed with reasonable participation of civil society group, clearly recognises communities’ rights over their land and resources and the need for forest law reform,” said Saskia Ozinga of FERN.
FERN and Forest Watch Ghana call upon the EU to ensure that any agreements with Malaysia, Indonesia, Cameroon and DRC have the full support of civil society groups and strengthen the land tenure and access rights of marginalized rural communities and indigenous peoples, as demanded by the European Council when it adopted the EU Action Plan.
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