Science-policy dialogue on timber legality and social safeguards in Ghana

Science-policy dialogue on timber legality and social safeguards in Ghana

Ghana - 12 January, 2011

A two-day international workshop on the “Illegal or Incompatible” research project was held in Elmina, Ghana on November 25 and 26, 2010. The workshop aimed at informing policy processes in Ghana and the EU on anticipated impacts of Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) signed between the two parties. This workshop was a sequel to one organized earlier in October 2009 to facilitate information exchange and dialogue on potential impacts of VPA implementation on local livelihoods.

The Ghana-EU agreement recognizes the potential effect of VPA implementation on local livelihoods and the need for social safeguards to mitigate these impacts. The Elmina workshop was meant to chart the way forward in mitigating the possible impacts by understanding the meaning and potential use of social safeguard mechanisms in the context of the Ghana-EU VPA. The following are the key outcomes of the workshop.

1. Social safeguards need to be an integral part of the VPA

The workshop noted that while Article 17 of the Ghana-EU VPA mentions the need for social safeguards to mitigate any adverse impact the implementation of VPA can have on local stakeholders, an explicit definition of social safeguard mechanisms, for whom and how they are to be implemented is lacking. Participants therefore stressed the need for a common definition of social safeguards by both parties. Moreover, the workshop noted that different social actors in Ghana will be affected differently by the VPA implementation. Thus, it is unlikely that a single social safeguard mechanism will prevent all potentially adverse impacts on the livelihoods of these actors. Hence, a coherent set of tailor-made mechanisms for specific target groups over the short and long term will have to be designed and integrated in the VPA. Additionally, participants stressed the need to incorporate social safeguard mechanisms at the planning phase, early enough to avoid potential adverse effects on livelihood during VPA implementation. The preparation phase for the emerging Ghana-EU VPA implementation still offers an opportunity for incorporating social safeguard mechanisms for potentially affected stakeholders. Six different types of social safeguards emerged from the workshop. (For more information, see the workshop policy brief )

2. Steps towards mitigating negative social impacts in the implementation of the VPA

Now, plans for implementing the Ghana-EU VPA are being elaborated by the national Multi-stakeholder Implementation Committee (M-SIC). To ensure that social safeguards contribute to good forest governance under FLEGT/VPA, the workshop made the following suggestions regarding the implementation of the agreement:

  1. Dedicate a special working group for elaborating social safeguards to mitigate anticipated adverse socio-economic impacts of the Agreement;
  2. Strengthen the ongoing forest policy and legislative review processes through multiple stakeholder engagement as a way to better incorporate social safeguards in law and policies;
  3. Incorporate VPA issues into broad societal debate on “sustainable” and “socially just” forestry in Ghana through platforms such as the multi-stakeholder dialogue on domestic lumber supply and forest forums.
  4. Strengthen the VPA development process in Ghana by supporting civil society, small and medium scale lumber industries, producer associations, and community representatives to participate meaningfully in VPA implementation.
  5. Further research on those groups that are expected to be most adversely affected by the VPA implementation to be able to design and prioritise tailor-made safeguard mechanisms “at the earliest”;
  6. Learn from available regional lessons and best practices in VPA design and implementation on how to mitigate negative implications for forest actors; and
  7. In order to get more clarity on the concept of social safeguards in the FLEGT Action Plan, the EU should develop a briefing note in the FLEGT series elaborating social safeguards in VPA processes.

Participating in the workshop were representatives from research institutions and universities in the Netherlands, Denmark and Ghana such as the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana and the KNUST. Further represented were Ghana’s Forestry Commission, the EU, and civil society organisations including Care International Ghana and Tropenbos International Ghana. Forest users were represented by small scale domestic lumber producers, timber trade and processing associations and wood manufacturers. The Minister responsible for forestry in Ghana also sat through part of the discussions.

In addition, delegates were invited from Cameroon, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to share lessons on mitigating anticipated negative livelihood impact, implications of the VPA design and emerging implementation in their respective countries.