aerial shot of tall trees in forest

New regulation to stop illegal deforestation and promote legal timber trade passes in Ghana

Ghana has passed a new regulation that aims to stop illegal deforestation and reduce the sale of illegal timber.

The legislative instrument passed by parliament on Friday (3rd November) is part of reforms to ensure that all of Ghana’s timber is legal and to promote better management of the country’s forests.

Ghana was the first country to sign a trade agreement with the EU, known as a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which creates preferential access to the EU market for verified legal timber and supports forestry reforms.

ClientEarth forests law and policy advisor Jozef Weyns said: “This is a new way of doing business. As a result of these reforms, Ghana will be better able to manage its forests while collecting more revenue in tax. But most importantly, people and organisations in Ghana will be better able to protect and benefit from the forests they relate to. The legislative instrument is a decisive step towards Ghana being able to issue legal timber licenses under the VPA.”

Unclear rules and procedures around the issuing of some logging permits have made responsible forest management more difficult and vulnerable to legal challenges. The legal instrument brings together and reviews a number of existing regulations to solve this issue.

It also aims to tackle longstanding industry concerns over forest fees, and ensures local communities benefit from logging which affects them. The regulation gives local organisations more rights to access information, allowing them to keep watch to ensure the system remains credible.

TaylorCrabbe senior lawyer Clement Kojo Akapame said: “VPA trade agreements are unique in that they do more than increasing access to EU markets. They are negotiated and implemented with the involvement of government, private sector and non-governmental organisations. They link trade with legality.”

When a draft of the legal instrument was presented at one of the Ghana-EU joint VPA meetings, both sides welcomed it. Ghana’s Ministry for Land and Natural Resources hailed it as garnering broad and strong support, enhancing transparency and generating benefits for communities.

TaylorCrabbe senior lawyer Nana Tawiah Okyir added: “This regulation shows that attitudes are changing. Collaboration between government, the private sector and local organisations can result in laws that improve the way forests are managed. Importers and buyers can’t just focus on price and quality alone, they must ensure the products they buy, wherever they come from, are legal.”

Trade doesn’t just bring goods to Europe. It means that Europe is connected to and shares responsibility for the forests, people and law in countries that produce and supply timber.

Now the legal instrument has passed, we hope to see it put into action in the same spirit of collaboration and participation that has led to its passage.

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Francesco Veronesi

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