The Government of Ghana and the European Union (EU) have met to review progress towards the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).
The VPA is aimed at ensuring the legal means of selling timber products exported to the EU and at the domestic market.
Nii Osa Mills, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, said the Ghana-EU VPA Joint Monitoring and Review Mechanism (JMRM) which included representatives of stakeholder groups would oversee the implementation of the agreement.
He said the JMRM reviewed the status of development of Ghana’s timber legality assurance system and discussed outstanding issues to be addressed from the joint action plan before licensing could begin.
Nii Osah Mills said the licensing would enable Ghana’s timber products to enter the EU market without importers having to do further due diligence to meet their obligation under the EU Timber Regulation.
He said: “We made progress in clarifying our forest management plans, transparency, commitment and other outstanding issues.
“Each of these steps for improvements in forest governance brings Ghana closer to licensing and easier access to the EU market. The further development of our timber legality assurance system is also helping Ghana resolve legality issues with our domestic market and regional trade.”
The Minister said to track progress, the JMRM has decided to begin the next joint assessment of Ghana’s timber legality assurance system in August 2016.
Mr William Hanna, European Union Ambassador to Ghana and Co-Chair of the JMRM, said: “Ghana’s forest was crucial to the country sustainable development and the good governance will contribute to achieving the world’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“Through the VPA, Ghana is controlling illegal logging, modernising timber operations and ensuring forestry brings employment opportunities and social benefits such as payment to communities through Social Responsibility Agreements. The VPA also helps both partners contribute to addressing climate change and protect the biodiversity within Ghana’s forest.
He said the topics discussed by the JMRM included progress making Ghana’s timber legality assurance system operational, notably through the roll out of the new wood tracking system, progress under the VPA transparency communities and progress in addressing illegal chainsaw logging for domestic and regional markets.
Other topics discussed were issues related to permits for logging issued under the provisions of the Timber Resource Management Act (Act 617), issues related to conversion of leases to Timber Utilisation Contracts in line with the provision of Act 547 and VPA implementation priorities for 2016.
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