This is the Guyana update for Forest watch special: VPA update November 2016.
Official VPA status:in negotiation since 2012
A fourth formal VPA negotiation was held in March 2016 in Georgetown. The updated roadmap from this session indicates that the date for the initialling of the agreement is set for the last month of 2016. However, field testing of the Legality Assurance System has not yet taken place, as also set out in the Roadmap, and inputs to the process by the country’s indigenous peoples show that this deadline is unrealistic as they are yet far from satisfied with the current content of the draft agreement.
The General Assembly of the Amerindian Peoples Association, bringing together representatives from 68 villages from across the country in May 2016, issued the following resolution on the FLEGT VPA: “The APA regrets that vital recommendations made by indigenous communities with regards to the need to protect our inherent rights to lands and resources in the Voluntary Partnership Agreement between Guyana and the EU have still not been accommodated in the draft legality definition. Moving forward, the APA calls on the government of Guyana and the EU to ensure that the VPA, including the definition of legal timber, contains clear and strong safeguards for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples of Guyana to our lands, territories and resources in line with the Constitution and international human rights law and standards. If such protections are not in place in the VPA text and annexes before signing, the APA cannot and will not endorse it.”
The Aide Memoire from the fourth negotiation does contain a suggestion of addressing broader land issues through a Complimentary Measures Annex, which might establish a multi-stakeholder coordination mechanism on land tenure and land use. If such a proposed additional annex contained legally binding provisions on indigenous land tenure rights and FPIC, this could potentially be a positive development. However, the precise nature, scope and legal standing of such an annex and mechanism are yet to be established.
Despite numerous efforts, the APA still does not have a seat in the multi-stakeholder National Technical Working Group but has continued to contribute towards the discussions. To this end, the APA will be participating in a regional FLEGT seminar of Sharing of experiences learned – challenges and opportunities.
In the last negotiation one representative from APA was, however, allowed to sit as an observer to the formal procedures, however without being able to contribute to any of the discussions. There is an opportunity for the government of Guyana and the EU to rectify this in the 5th formal negotiation, which is coming up in November 2016.
This is an entry from the latest Forest Watch special VPA update, an occasional publication by LoggingOff and Fern. The VPA update provides a roundup of developments across countries involved in VPA processes, from a civil society perspective. This edition is from November 2016.