FERN, FPP, Global Witness, The Rainforest Foundation and the Forest Management Trust letter to EU regarding the FLEGT VPA process, Guyana

FERN, FPP, Global Witness, The Rainforest Foundation and the Forest Management Trust letter to EU regarding the FLEGT VPA process, Guyana

To Mrs Cristiana Pasca-PalmerHead of Unit (Climate change, Environment, Natural resources, Water)Directorate General Development and CooperationEuropean CommissionRue de la Loi 200B-1049 Brussels

Re: Guyana – EU VPA negotiation

Dear Mrs Pasca – Palmer,We write to express our concerns about the VPA development process in Guyana. Our concerns centre on the absence of an inclusive and effective multi-stakeholder process in Guyana, combined with a lack of transparency of the whole process and serious intimidation by government-led agencies of those who voice critical positions.It should be noted that all six VPAs the EU has signed to date have been negotiated in an inclusive and transparent process with the full participation of local stakeholders. This is not the case in Guyana and so unless there is a change in the process, Guyana risks undermining the existing VPA processes.We therefore urge you to inform the Guyanese Government that the existing process is not satisfactory; that it needs to be opened up to include all stakeholders; and that all relevant documents should be published. Furthermore there should be clear statements from the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) that it will not allow any intimidation or personal threats being issued to individuals or organisations.

None of these concerns are new. We have already voiced our concerns in a previous letter (sent to the Commission by FERN, FPP and Global Witness on 9 May 2013) as well as the 22nd meeting for Illegal Logging Stakeholder Consultation and Update at Chatham House in London on 8 July 2013, which was attended by your staff.   We have, however, not yet seen a clear response from the European Commission.

Although the GFC has repeatedly stated that it is consulting with a wide range of stakeholders, the range is actually limited and excludes people linked with opposition political parties and  indigenous Amerindians viewed (by the government) as unsupportive of the ruling Peoples Progressive Party. Furthermore the ‘consultation’ is in the form of formal statements often in technical language by government agencies, with limited time for response, and no feedback to those providing input. Last, organisations or individuals that are openly critical risk being ridiculed in the national, government owned press, or worse are being personally threatened. All this indicates there is no political climate conducive for inclusive, constructive and transparent VPA negotiations.

The problem of one-way flow of selected information is not new in Guyana and was already noted by the International Institute for Environment and Development in its November 2009 commentary on the initial consultations on the first version of the President’s Low Carbon Development Strategy  and by the Rainforest Alliance in December 2012 on its verification report on progress in the Norway-Guyana Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).  Hence, before starting the negotiations the European Commission should have been clear about the requirements for an open, inclusive, transparent and participatory process.

A particular problem is shown in the aide memoire of the second VPA negotiation session. A number of documents are mentioned which are said to have been developed with or seen by the VPA National Technical Working Group – whose membership has not been made public. These documents are, however, not in the public domain; they have neither been published and distributed freely in Guyana nor placed fully and without redaction on the GFC website. 

Transparency is required in the VPA negotiations and also expected under the Norway-Guyana MoU of November 2009. We therefore urge you to ensure that the GFC immediately places all VPA-related material from the draft stage onwards onto its website without delay or redaction , and to respond directly and openly on its websites and in the independent press to questions and comments made on that material. 

In relation to section 38 in the aide memoire, the GFC has opened a facility on its website for e-mailed comments on the VPA. However, there is no explanation of how comments will be handled. It is important to note that the President’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) website had a similar comment system in 2009 but there is no evidence that the Office of the President made any changes to the LCDS drafts as a result. This gives the impression of a ‘tokenistic’ consultation. Last, it will also be of concern to Guyanese, recognising the vindictive nature of the Government and its sensitivity to external comments, that the e-mails are not made anonymous.

In short, we feel there is as yet no progress visible in developing an open, inclusive and transparent VPA process and the creation of a political climate free of intimidation required for VPA negotiations. We feel that the Government of Guyana in general, and the GFC in particular, are not paying attention to the governance aspects of VPAs as indicated in the EU FLEGT Action Plan.  The very limited actions on improvement of governance under the Norway-Guyana MoU since 2009 are also indicators of a lack of political will.  Guyanese citizens deserve better, and EU pressure for an inclusive, transparent VPA process free from intimidation would be vital.

Yours sincerely,

Saskia Ozinga, Campaign Coordinator FERN

Alexandra Pardal, Campaign Leader Global Witness

Joji Carino, Executive Director Forest Peoples Programme

Simon Counsell, Executive Director Rainforest Foundation UK

John Palmer, Senior Asociate, Forest Management Trust

c.c.

Emilie Goransson Emilie.GORANSSON@ec.europa.eu Michela Tagliaferri Michela.TAGLIAFERRI@ec.europa.euBernard Crabbé bernard.crabbe@ec.europa.euJoachim Jakobsen Claus-Joachim-Vedsted.JAKOBSEN@eeas.europa.eu