A shift has occurred in Ghana, where the appointment of an energetic new Minister for Lands and Natural Resources (Samuel A. Jinapor) has boosted processes that had been deadlocked in recent years. A Joint Assessment of the country’s readiness for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licensing had identified the final barriers to the issuance of licences, and the new Minister has re-vitalised efforts to tackle them.
The issue of Special Permits – which are licences issued outside of the competitive bidding process that is meant to regulate all timber harvesting - had been one sticking point, but Minister Jinapor has taken the unprecedented measure of writing directly to the Forestry Commission with instructions to ban their use. This crucial step will help ensure that all rights to harvest naturally occurring timber are granted through due process and are captured by Ghana’s Timber Legality Assurance System. Simultaneously, civil society has lodged a legal challenge to ensure the permanency of this ban.
The Minister is also pushing to resolve a further barrier to the issuance of licences - the conversion of remaining leases and permits from the old system into Timber Utilisation Contracts. After consulting with the Cabinet, he is expected to bring the matter before Parliament within the next month or so.
In parallel to these processes, the outstanding Forest Management Plans (FMPs) are also nearing completion. Of 142 production forest reserves requiring an FMP, 43 valid plans have been approved and published; 68 will be printed in September 2021 (a mix of new plans and existing plans nearing expiry); and 30 are currently undergoing stakeholder consultation or analysis and review, and are also expected to be ready for publication by September.
Once these processes have been completed, a Joint Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism meeting will assess progress and, if satisfactory, could set a date for the issuance of FLEGT licences. This will require political will from both the EU and Ghana. Ghana has shown its renewed commitment to the process; Civil Society Organisations in both Ghana and other partner countries trust that the EU will seize the chance to do the same.