Minister of Natural Resources Hon. Vickram Bharrat successfully tabled in the National Assembly, on Monday, April 24, the Guyana-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement or VPA. This will pave the way for greater cooperation and increase market access and market share with the European Union (EU).
This agreement was initialled in 2018 in Brussels. The VPA was then signed in December 2022 in Montreal, Canada by Minister Vickram Bharrat, and finally ratified on Monday.
In November 2022, the Natural Resources Minister at COP27 in Egypt signed a Forest Partnership Agreement with the EU for €5 million to support sustainable livelihood in forest-based communities. The agreement was formally handed to H.E. President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali in March of this year. Guyana is the first country to sign both the VPA and a Forest Partnership Agreement.
In 2012, a stakeholder-supported policy decision was taken by the Government of Guyana to enter into formal negotiations with the EU on developing a VPA. The terms of the VPA were negotiated through a collaborative process between Guyana and the EU where both parties shared the goal of fostering good forest governance and addressing illegality.
The VPA aims to support governance reform and strengthen enforcement activities in Guyana with commitments to improve transparency, accountability, legislative clarity, and other aspects of governance.
When a nation becomes a VPA Partner Country, it can issue FLEGT licenses to its exporters under national FLEGT Licensing Schemes based on a Legality Assurance System (LAS) for agreed timber products destined for the EU. This system, which is rolled out at the national level, ensures that only legally produced timber products are exported to the EU.
To begin issuing FLEGT licenses as required by the VPA, Guyana is building on existing national initiatives like its Wood Tracking System (WTS) to develop a robust timber legality assurance also known as the Guyana Timber Legality System (GTLAS).
Guyana also has a series of VPA Annexes which describe the practical components for implementing the core commitments in the VPA in detail. Annexes provide information on the country’s laws that Guyana will use to monitor the agreement, timber products covered under the agreement, and other requirements.
It will also guarantee new donor revenue streams to support the implementation phase. However, local VPA ministries/ agencies must also budget annually to ensure that any gaps in their internal systems are identified and rectified.
The other VPA countries are the Central African Republic; Ivory Coast; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Gabon; Ghana; Guyana; Honduras; Laos; Liberia; Malaysia; Myanmar; the Republic of Congo and Vietnam.