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Ghana: Lessons Learnt

Several key lessons have been learnt over the course of the Making the Forest Sector Transparent project in Ghana since 2009. Overall, information provision on the forest sector has not improved significantly, but there have been some advances. The following observations can be made:

  • A Freedom of Information (FOI) Act would make an important difference by providing a legal framework for requiring the Forestry Commission and other institutions to publish information and respond to requests, but the passage of the Right to Information Bill continues to be delayed and members of the government have attempted to introduce restrictive clauses. The absence of such legislation makes it impossible for people to demand information and compel public office holders to disclose information. Civil society organisations (CSOs) will need to press the government in 2013 to finally pass the bill into law and establish systems to implement it.
  • The Forest and Wildlife policy review was conducted using a participatory process that offers a positive example for other sector reforms. The final policy document has been approved by Cabinet. It offers a vision for future management of Ghana's dwindling forests, including recognition of community rights and tree tenure, which needs to be made available to communities and translated into local languages. A 10-year Strategic Plan is anticipated to outline implementation.
  • Since 2009, participation of civil society in forest sector processes has improved significantly at the national level. CSOs have served on important platforms and increased their representation in the Annual Environment and Natural Resources sector review. The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and other ministries have shown a willingness to support national consultation. Further efforts are needed to develop participation in local decision-making on forests.
  • The ratification of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union presented the opportunity to comprehensively review forest governance and enforcement so that it addresses the many challenges facing the sector, but progress has been slow. Nonetheless, over 2012 there was some progress towards setting up systems for verification of the legality of timber products, and concerns over the issuing of 'administrative' permits were acknowledged by the Forestry Commission, but considerable challenges remain to implementation on the VPA.
  • One important area of improvement in public information has been the availability of reports on the disbursement of royalties from timber companies. Nonetheless, local people have still lacked information on how district assemblies and traditional authorities use these funds. Making the Forest Sector Transparent has supported the development of a byelaw on natural resource management in the Wassa Amenfi East District and also supported the Brong Ahafo Regional House of Chiefs to develop a transparency charter on the management of natural resources. These initiatives need to be consolidated and expanded to ensure that royalties from the logging industry benefit local people.
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