4 September 2008

Ghana: Country, EU Sign Pact

The Minister of Lands Forestry and Mines, Mrs. Esther Obeng Dappah, has noted that Ghana, under the first Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU), on a forest law enforcement governance and trade, was a commitment to ensure that all timber exports to the EU, would be legally compliant.

She said further that all timber consignments would be accompanied by chain of custody statements as well as legality licenses.

Speaking at the conclusion of the negotiations of the agreement between Ghana and Europe yesterday, she stated that the country was committed to deliver on these provisions in the agreement, which would however be considerable resource requirements in achieving this agreement.

She explained that Ghana's decision was further reinforced by her own aspirations, as laid out in the National Forest and Wildlife Policy of 1994, which has been known as complementary to the EU's action plan to combat illegal logging and trade.

She said this was to ensure responsible timber purchasing and consumption, in response to considerable changes in the international market for timber.

"Ghana, therefore, fully identifies with the EU's Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative," she added.

Mrs. Esther Obeng Dappah pointed out that Ghana's multi-stakeholder involvement, at delivering the elements of the agreement, has deepened Ghana's internal consultative processes in the forestry sector, and thereby enhanced good governance

She said the EU, on its part, would guarantee free and unrestricted access to its entire market of all FLEGT licensed timber products, coming from Ghana.

The Agreement was also to focus on governance reforms, which would help improve legal compliance, sustained development in the domestic market, and appropriate reforms in the timber industry.

It was an expectation that the first FLEGT-based export licenses from Ghana, would be issued by the end of 2010.

Through an established mechanism for sector budget support, the EU would also provide assistance to help Ghana's implementation.

The VPA expressed a mutual commitment, to provide a concerted response to the problem of illegal logging and trade, associated with timber products, by linking good forestry governance in Ghana, with the legal trade instruments and leverage, offered by the EU's internal market.

The Director General for Development of the European Commission, Mr. Stefano Manservisi, expressed his gratitude to Ghana on the pioneering role they had played in international actions to combat illegal logging, and for developing ambitious first agreement, that would set a high standard or others to follow.

He urged Ghana to extend the message in the FLEGT initiatives, to other timber producer countries in the sub-region.

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