Story by Carlos Afanou

Mr Obed Owusu-Addai,
Managing director for EcoCare Ghana delivered speech today, 9th September 2020 on position of Civil Society on conversion of extant leases towards FLEGT license issuance.

"Civil Society notes that Ghana is on the brink of making history with the imminent issuance of FLEGT license and trading in legal timber on both the domestic and international market. It is also noted, however, that there has been a dip in the pace of implementation of certain critical final steps that will anchor home this honour of Ghana. One key final step that has stalled in the FLEGT-VPA process in recent months is the conversion of extant leases and permits into valid timber utilization contracts which includes ratification by Parliament."

"We note that, it has taken over a decade to reach where we are in the VPA process. As partners in the process, Civil Society is very proud of the milestones Ghana has achieved collectively. We are also very committed to support the Government of Ghana to complete the process in accordance with Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources' timelines of issuing a FLEGT license before or by the end of 2020. In the light of this commitment, Civil Society has observed with a bit of worry the seemingly slow pace at which the conversion process is progressing because Ghana's ability to meet our commitments in the FLEGT-VPA is largely dependent on this very important process."

"We recall that the report of the 2016 Joint Assessment observed that, only 4% of all existing timber contracts meet the VPA criteria for valid timber right. Majority of the remaining 96% are extant leases and permits that need to be converted to Timber Utilization Contracts (TUCs) ratified by Parliament before they become valid timber rights for harvesting and trading in legal timber. This problem has arisen because Forestry Commission and the Ministry failed to set in motion the processes to convert these extant leases and permits since 1998, when the Timber Resources Management Act, 1998 (ACT 547), which made these extant leases illegal, was passed."

"We understand that the conversion process has begun, and a list of over one hundred contracts have been prepared and submitted to the Ministry for signature and onward submission to Parliament for ratification. We commend the recently sworn-in CEO of Forestry Commission for His leadership in the process so far. We understand it was under His directions that the Forestry Commission speedily prepared the individual Timber Utilization Contracts which are now locked up in the political bureaucracy at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources."

"It is very important and crucial that the conversion process is concluded and submitted to Parliament for ratification before Parliament rises this year to avoid possible repercussions that the failure to complete the conversion process might have on Ghana's reputation internationally.
Ghana's credibility on the international timber market and in the eyes of the European Union in particular is at stake. This may affect future commitments and declarations made by Ghana on such bilateral/multilateral commitments. Ghana's failure to issue FLEGT license this year could also raise further barriers for our already ailing timber industry."

"Presently, due to the good standing and efforts Ghana has made in Forest governance through the FLEGT-VPA process, companies exporting to the EU and other jurisdictions enjoy a bit of leeway in due diligence compliance. Issuing a FLEGT license will solidify the position of Ghana's timber industry as industry players will enjoy the "green lane" with respect to EU timber regulation."

Source: |Ghananewsdesk.com|
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