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Concerted efforts needed to promote responsible timber trade

By: Jessica Acheampong
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Mr John M. Allotey - Deputy Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission
Mr John M. Allotey - Deputy Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission

The Deputy Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, Mr John M. Allotey has reiterated the need for a multi-stakeholder approach in formulating and implementing policies to promote responsible timber trade.

He said the potential of irresponsible trade in timber to impoverish local communities and erode efforts at socio-economic development was very high, hence, the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to policy making that would ensure better implementation of forest regulation and management prescriptions.

At a responsible timber trade fair in Accra, he said illegal trade in tropical timber is one of the main drivers of environmental degradation, human rights abuses and corruption and it was therefore important to tackle the illegality in the sector.

“Ghana saw the opportunity through the mechanism of the action plan to harness the collective will of all the stakeholders in the forest sector to evolve and implement policies and strategies that will contribute more effectively to reducing illegalities in the sector and forest degradation as a whole,” he said.

To tackle illegality in the sector and support the trade of legal timber, international legislation such as the EU Timber Regulation (EU TR), the US Lacey Act, and the Australia Illegal Logging Prohibition Act have been developed.

He said 12 years ago, Ghana became a part of the forest law enforcement, governance and trade story after realising how aligned the objectives of the action plan were with the stated objectives in its own national forest and wildlife policy.

New portal
The Forestry Commission has developed a new portal to readily make available forest management information to potential investors and the public.

The new portal, known as the Ghana Wood Tracking System (GWTS) Public Portal which was developed through a joint effort of Civic Response, a civil society organisation, is to ensure that information required by buyers seeking to do due diligence were published by the commission.

He said the new portal had reiterated Ghana’s commitment to promoting responsible trade in the sector, specifically on timber.

He said, Ghana recently passed the Legislative Instrument (LI) 2254, which among others, made it a requirement for the Forestry Commission to make forest management information publicly available.

“With this LI, certain information that was routinely requested by buyers seeking to do their due diligence will now be published on the Forestry Commission website. Through a joint effort of Civic Response, a CSO, a forest management information portal has been developed and will be launched,” he said.

Assurance system
Mr Allotey also noted that the development of the timber legality assurance system, which had been branded as the GhLAS, was now complete and all forest production districts had been rolled on and enabled to use the system.

“You may also be aware that in the last quarter of last year, Ghana completed an end-to-end testing of the system and was able to conduct a trial shipment of consignments to selected destinations in Europe,” he said.

He added that the trial shipment under the FLEGT licensing system was well received at the European destinations and as a result, Ghana was proceeding to apply some minor but final tweaks to the licensing format to pave the way for full implementation.

Responsible Timber Trade fair
Organised by BVRio, Timber Industry Development Division (TIDD) of the Forestry Commission and Proforest, Africa Regional Office, the fair was to connect sellers and buyers of legal and certified timber products.

As part of the fair, a forum which brought together participants from selected African countries as part of efforts to promote legal and certified timber from tropical countries was organised. An exhibition was also mounted alongside for timber companies to promote their products.

The Representative of BVRio for West and Central Africa, Mr James Parker, said the objective of the fair was to promote and expose timber companies that embraced legality and the FLEGT-VPA process and certification to timber traders from the European Union (EU) and China.

He said it was expected that the Responsible Timber Trade Fair would raise awareness of timber legality and help generate an increase in the international demand for legally and sustainably sourced timber products from West and Central Africa.