-in keeping with sustainable forest management policies
Guyana’s forests cover approximately 87 percent of the country’s total surface area with low deforestation rates. As part of the Government’s policy of maintaining sustainable forest management; a diverse group of stakeholders from government agencies, forest sector operators, indigenous non-governmental organisations, environmental non-governmental organisations, civil society, including women, youths, and forest workers representatives, have agreed to develop a national forest standard and certification system for endorsement by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Council (PEFC).
The PEFC is a leading global alliance promoting sustainable forest management through forest certification and labelling of forest-based products. The PEFC is one of the two globally recognised forest management and wood products certification systems. While the other is the Forest Steward Certification system. Currently, there are 750,000 forests owners, covering a total of 330 million hectares of forests, who are certified globally under PEFC.
It must be noted that many tropical timber-producing countries including, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gabon and Ghana (who have signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU) similar to Guyana), have developed and implemented PEFC-endorsed national certification systems, or are in the process of developing their national systems for PEFC endorsement. Similar to Guyana, these countries are also members of the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO).
The Guyana Forestry Commission is both the governing and the standardising body with the responsibility to represent Guyana in the PEFC Council, as well as oversee the development of the standard and the certification. The GFC is currently establishing a PEFC secretariat within the Commission to manage the standard development process.
The decision to develop this standard and certification system was endorsed at a broad stakeholder meeting held in March this year. Consultations on developing the standards for the national certification system included participants from civil society bodies: the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association, Forest Products Association, National Steering Committee for Community Forest Organisation, Guyana Organisation of Indigenous People; private sectors: concessionaires, exporters, sawmillers, lumberyard dealers; academia: Guyana School of Agriculture; and government Ministries and agencies: Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Legal Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, Forest Products Development & Marketing Council and Forestry Training Centre.
At the stakeholder meeting, the Minister of Natural Resources, Hon. Vickram Bharrat M.P delivered the keynote address in which he explained to the stakeholders the benefits of creating a PEFC-endorsed national forest certification system for Guyana. At the conclusion of his address, Minister Bharrat asked the stakeholders to consider whether they supported creating the standard and certification system.
As such, stakeholders have agreed to seek PEFC endorsement of Guyana’s national forest certification system because the PEFC-endorsed system:
· uses a “bottom-up” approach that focuses on meeting the expectations of affected and interested local stakeholders on the ground, as well as stakeholders able to influence the implementation of the Standard;
· takes into account local conditions; and
· are consistent with national laws and regulations, all within a framework of key internationally recognised sustainability benchmarks.
The standard development process will draw largely on the work already completed as part of the Guyana/EU VPA process, under the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme, which Guyana successfully initialled in 2018.
Given both the VPA and PEFC processes emphasise a “bottom-up” approach with significant involvement of forest stakeholders, the national system will complement as well as synergise with the FLEGT programme in Guyana.
The intended PEFC-endorsed national standard and certification system will be available voluntarily to a forest sector operator who chooses to take advantage of it. It will not replace or compete with FLEGT licencing scheme under the VPA FLEGT programme when completed and implemented.
The PEFC approach will also present an opportunity to develop a globally recognised certification system that is genuinely reflective of Guyana’s forest management situation’s uniqueness, and the needs and expectations of the Guyanese people.
In opting for the PEFC approach, stakeholders have agreed to develop Guyana’s national forest certification system using an open, transparent, consultative, and consensus-based process that includes a broad range of stakeholders, similar to the VPA negotiation process.
The Guyana National Forest Management Standard will cover:
· forest management on all land tenures where forest management for commercial purposes is permitted by law in Guyana;
· both individual forest management organisations and potential group schemes involving multiple forest management entities (in accordance with group certification procedures to be developed as part of the System); and
· timber products as well as non-timber forest products.
· An independent third-party certification like the PEFC will support Guyanese forest operators to demonstrate their legality and sustainability credentials credibly against internationally recognised benchmarks efficiently and cost-effectively to the global markets.
For more information about Guyana’s national standard and forest certification system, please visit the website of the GFC: https://forestry.gov.gy.