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Sustainable timber: Countries meet to swap experiences on EU trade compliance.

The experts in a plenary session

Championing rights and fair compensation for forest communities in Ghana

Experts working to eliminate illegal logging in the Republic of the Congo (ROC) and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic gathered in Ghana to learn from its own experiences in promoting trade of legally-produced timber to the European Union.

 The Ghana Forestry Commission organized the knowledge-sharing event with support from the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme. In 2009, Ghana signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU as part of the FLEGT programme. The VPA is designed to ensure that timber and timber products exported to the EU come from legal sources.

 Both the Republic of Congo and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic have sought support in moving forward with their own trade agreements with the EU and expressed interest in learning from the details of Ghana’s experience.

 Twenty five participants from ROC and LAO People’s Democratic Republic gathered with their Ghanaian counterparts for the knowledge-sharing  event comprising  a two-day conference and  field trips focusing on  discussions designed to address specific challenges which each country has experienced in developing its VPA and timber legality assurance system (TLAS).

 The agenda included thematic sessions with presentations and group discussion on managing stakeholder processes, development of timber legality assurance systems (TLAS), domestic market reforms and related issues.

 Participants made field visits to forest concessions and a privately-owned sawmill, giving them the opportunity to meet with small-business owners to discuss issues facing the private sector.

 According to FAO Forestry Officer, Marc Vandehaute, “The multi-country approach to knowledge-sharing allows participating countries to widen their exposure to lessons and experiences from other regions while making it possible for the host country to meet various requests with a single event.”

From policy to sustainable action

A VPA between the EU and a timber-producing country is a legally binding trade arrangement. The accord means timber-exporting countries and businesses must develop verification systems to demonstrate that legal processes were applied at every stage, including timber harvesting, the transportation and storage of logs, and the processing and exporting of finished wood products.

The EU is a major donor for the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme, as is the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom.