Can trade policies help promote sustainable forest management? An analysis of the EU-Ghana FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement
Sean Woolfrey looks at the implementation of the EU-Ghana Voluntary Partnership Agreement under the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative.
This paper analyses the implementation of the EU-Ghana Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) under the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative, which seeks to address illegal logging by improving forest sector governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber. It draws lessons for the EU on how trade and non-trade policy instruments can be used in a coherent and integrated way to sustain local policy reforms towards non-trade policy objectives in partner countries.
Through the FLEGT-VPA, the EU was able to integrate trade policies and development assistance into a coherent and coordinated approach that has helped sustain momentum on Ghana’s forest sector governance reforms and generate progress on sustainable forest management. Importantly, the EU-Ghana VPA built on Ghana’s sector reform objectives and national legislative processes, thereby ensuring legitimacy, local ownership and more effective enforcement. Independent monitoring, joint review and civil society engagement also proved crucial.
However, despite its positive impacts, the EU-Ghana FLEGT-VPA remains a work in progress. It has not yet established a functioning licensing system for Ghanaian timber exports to the EU, nor has it fully addressed concerns about representation and equity in Ghana’s forest sector governance. The analysis shows that navigating deeply entrenched vested interests and inconsistent political leadership has been a challenge. It also highlights the risks and limitations of the FLEGT-VPA approach, including its reliance on the continued importance of the EU market and the risk that slow progress on VPA implementation leads to reform fatigue among key stakeholders.
This paper is part of our work for the RESPECT (Realising Europe’s soft power in external cooperation and trade) project.