The concept of Social Responsibility Agreement [SRA] was introduced as part of the timber utilization contract [TUC] procedure to ensure that the entire forest fringe community [FFC], where a TUC holder operates, can directly benefit from the exploitation of timber resources both on and off forest reserve. Following the TUC procedure, contractors shall enter into a written agreement with the forest fringe communities in the TUC area, indicating their commitment to be socially responsible in their operations and to provide social infrastructure for the communities.
In 2008, Ghana entered into a voluntary Partnership Agreement [VPA] with the European community under the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade [FLEGT]. The strict enforcement of existing laws and regulations under the VPA will be extended also to the provision related to the negotiation and implementation of SRAs.
Section C of the Ghana Forestry Commission’s [FC] Manuals of procedures explains that ‘SRA is a mechanism to ensure that all TUC operations are carried out in a socially responsible manner with due respect for all the rights of landowning communities’. In practice effective implementation has not been possible. There are reports that some traditional authorities, stool land chiefs and their elders are claiming and signing SRAs on behalf of forest fringe communities making their implementation difficult.
Moreover, the SRA requires the TUC holder to respect the social and cultural values of the communities affected by their operations but this aspect has often been neglected. Furthermore the SRA negotiating process lacks a clear, laid down procedure for the parties thus making the negotiation procedures irregular.Although the FC, in collaboration with stakeholders, have developed guidelines for SRA negotiation and implementation, the SRAs currently being signed have not adhered to these provisions. Special concerns results from the lack of clear definition of the parties entitled to negotiating and signing the agreements and their respective witnesses.
The SARs that have been negotiated and signed in the past are plagued with irregularities and challenges. Improving Social Responsibility Agreements in support of a functional VPA would ensure broader stakeholder Participation in the VPA implementation. This proposal seeks to contribute to improving effective negotiation And timber firms (TF), enhancing forest governance, in line with the FLEGT process, and improving the Gh-LAS for a functional VPA.
The EU FAO FLEGT Program me promotes the implementation of the FLEGT Action plan by improving forest governance, providing technical assistance, and building capacity through funding project in eligible countries. In pursuit of these objectives, the EU FAO FLEGT program me has agreed to support the Project entitled ‘’Improving Social Responsibility Agreements in support of a functional VPA’’.