A decade of work from Ghana’s government, non-governmental organisations, industry and the EU is finally coming to a head and it looks like FLEGT-licensed timber will soon be being exported.
It’s been a long time coming: After a historic September 2023 decision, Ghana will become the first African country to start issuing Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licences. These licences will indicate that timber and wood products imported from Ghana to the EU have been legally produced. Given that the EU Deforestation Regulation also requires that companies demonstrate legal production, this is a significant step forward for Ghanaian timber exports.
In 2007, Ghana and the EU began discussions about how to combat illegal logging and trade of timber and wood products. Ghana became the first timber-producing country to sign a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) in 2009. The VPA aims to combat illegal logging and trade, as well as to improve forest governance in Ghana and access to the European market.
Whilst it has taken 14 years to arrive at the point of licensing, the positive results along the way have been numerous. Not only has illegal logging decreased, importantly the space for civil society within forest management in Ghana has significantly increased, contributing to “more consultation and consideration of local communities’ opinions … [as well as] better enforcement of Social Responsibility Agreements for local communities [and] tax revenues improved local communities’ wellbeing”.
Over the last few years, the process had been held up by several factors, such as conversion of special timber permits from the previous system, and questions around how to deal with confiscated timber. A change in government representatives engaged in the process seems to have helped push through the deadlock (FW 267).
In September 2023, multistakeholder delegations from Ghana and the EU met to discuss the remaining issues that needed to be addressed before issuing FLEGT licences. Stakeholders representing civil society, industry and government from the EU and Ghana agreed that Ghana had made substantial progress towards issuing FLEGT licences.
Considerable political will on both sides of the table led the EU and Ghana to formally adopt amendments to the VPA – for example, to expand the scope of products covered and change the format of the licence. Ghana also made significant progress on the last action plan it agreed with the EU, by: completing forest management plans, submitting extant leases and permits to Parliament for ratification, and issuing a Ministerial directive to strengthen regulatory controls.
Only one step remains before Ghana can issue FLEGT licences: Ghana’s Parliament must ratify the extant leases and permits, which Ghana has already submitted. Parliament will fully review the extant leases and permits in October 2023.
The EU and Ghana have tentatively agreed to meet in February 2024, at which point, if Ghana can confirm that extant leases and permits have been ratified and therefore converted, Ghana and the EU will agree a date on which the licensing will become operational.