GINA, GUYANA, Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Guyana and the European Union (EU) will be signing the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) under the European Union Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (EU/FLEGT) initiative that was adopted by this country in 2003.
The VPA will see Guyana having access to more lucrative markets in the EU for its timber products. It will also see improved governance at all levels, more revenues, capacity building, international recognition and reform policies and laws where needed.
Commissioner of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), James Singh explained that upon the completion of the agreement between Guyana and the EU, the VPA will be used as a legal binding agreement. Singh was speaking at a consultation session with the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) at Bina Hill, Annai, Region Nine over the weekend.
Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock; Chairman, National Toshaos Council (NTC), Joel Fredericks, Attorney at Law, Nigel Hughes and Head of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST), Professor Suresh Narine were also present.
“I am happy to report that before the course of this year, before June we will be able to sign the initial agreement. This agreement will bring tremendous benefits to us, Guyana has always had access to markets, but it will help us to have access to more lucrative markets in the EU, and it will facilitate a system for trading to be made very easy,” Singh told the village leaders.
Over the last two weeks, the National Technical Working Group, the entity tasked with coordinating activities leading up to the VPA, has been conducting sensitisation sessions with residents of the North, South and Central Rupununi. “You the stakeholders play an integral role in this,” Singh told the gathering.
Fredericks spoke of the role of the NTC in the agreement process, which he said is to ensure that the Indigenous peoples’ rights are respected. He said they depend on the forest for their livelihood, and it is important that they (the people) are supported so that they will be able to better manage and secure their resources.
“The VPA will give you an opportunity to know what you have as your resources… some communities have already started to map their resources. So our resources are very important to us and we also must learn how to preserve them. In some of the villages they are ready for the EU/FLEGT VPA because here is an opportunity for them to do business. Some of the villages depend on logging and they should tap into the EU market,” the NTC chairman said.
Meanwhile, the village leaders expressed concern over the tracking system, which involves the use of a registered machine to operate in concessions, filling out of permits, and geo-tagging.
Chairman of Aranaputa Village Council, Adon Jacobus said that it will be difficult for the residents of the North Rupununi since most of the vehicles that transport products are used by more than one village. For example, if the central village has a tractor and trailer, that same vehicle is used by its satellite villages, he cited.
Singh explained that once the tractor is operating in the concession, then it has to be registered to the concession, however if the tractor is only used to extract the produce then it does not have to be registered.
Minister Allicock encouraged the village council to organise a meeting with the residents and designate three persons to study the process and work along with the council to ensure full compliance once the VPA is enforced. He also urged them to make representations on behalf of the villages.
The EU/FLEGT initiative has also brought together a number of agencies including the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). Head of the FLEGT Secretariat, Kenny David said that “when we talk about legality, it goes beyond just cutting timber from an illegal source, whether that source is your private lands or state lands because we recognise these agencies play a very important role and this role will continue.”
He further noted that the initiative will significantly improve the tracking system of timber products in Guyana.
By: Synieka Thorne