Guyana says it will sign the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) under the European Union Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (EU/FLEGT) initiative, which Georgetown adopted in 2003.
The VPA will result in Guyana having access to more lucrative markets in the European Union (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, said upon the completion of the agreement between Guyana and the EU, the VPA will be used as a legal binding agreement.
“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 said at a consultation session with the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB).
Over the past 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.
Chairman of the National Toshaos Council (NTC), Joel Fredericks, who spoke of the role of his organisation in the agreement process, said it 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.
Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock urged the village council to organise a meeting with the residents and designate three people to study the process and work along with the council to ensure full compliance once the VPA is enforced.
The EU/FLEGT initiative has also brought together a number of agencies including the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).