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Expert advocates overhaul of governing processes within Ghana’s natural resources sector

A Ghanaian environmental legal expert has called for a new governance approach for the sustainable management and use of the nation’s natural resources.

Mr. Clement Akapame of GIMPA’s Law Faculty and an Associate of ClientEarth, delivering a keynote presentation on the topic: “Governance Challenges in the Natural Resources and Environment Sectors,” at a ceremony to outdoor Tropenbos Ghana (TBG) in Accra on Wednesday, May 31, 2017

This, he says, will require interactions among structures, processes and traditions that determine how power and responsibilities are exercised, how decisions are taken, and how citizens or stakeholders engage.

The expert, Clement Kojo Akapame of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) Law Faculty, explained that this new mode of governance, based on collaboration and interaction, provide an authentic approach to dealing with challenges of the natural resources sector.

He was delivering a keynote presentation on “Governance Challenges in the Natural Resources and Environment Sectors,” at a ceremony in Accra last Wednesday, May 31, 2017 to outdoor Tropenbos Ghana (TBG), a civil society organisation (CSO) and launch its 10-year Strategic Plan.

Mr. Akapame, who is also an Associate of ClientEarth, a group of environmental lawyers, further highlighted the disorderliness within the legal regime of the natural resources sector, saying: “The current legal framework … is a perilous quagmire of constitutional obligations fleshed out through substantive and procedural provisions in various Acts of Parliament such as the Forest Act dating back to 1927 and most recently the Timber Resources Management Legality Regulation of 2012.”

He advocated a reorganisation of the sector’s governing processes towards the proposed new governance approach based on the principles of integration, coordination, transparency, inclusiveness, fairness, and legitimacy.

The Learned Professor was emphatic in demanding a new course for the sector. “…The charting of a new course in the management of natural resources, where we will de-balkanise institutions and processes, break down silos in our policy and law making process…”

He made reference to the words of Theodore Roosevelt that “the nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets, which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value…”

And, on that note, Mr. Akapame wondered, “Are we in a position to say that the governance mechanism we have put in place will ensure such handover tot eh next generation?”

At the same event, a representative of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Accra, Fred Smiet, also made presentation on the topic: “Civil Society as Partner in Development,” and cited the on-going media campaign on galamsey or illegal mining in Ghana as a very good example of the role of civil society in national affairs.

He said the process has been a collaboration between media and other civil society groups evidenced by many organisations who gathered proof of environmental destruction and damage, which the media published and continue to do so to date.

Mr. Smiet observed that “for years government did not act decisively. Now after months of a sustained campaign in the media, government feels compelled to act… members of Parliament, traditional leaders, Ministers, the President, have all swung into action.”

He stated: “This is a good example of the role of civil society,” but was quick to add, “… in the future civil society needs to keep up the effort, if government starts to show signs of complacency in enforcing mining regulations.”

The diplomat further highlighted the need for strategic partnership in the CSOs approach to issues, saying, “The Government of The Netherlands has challenged CSOs to work together in strategic partnership to lobby more effectively.” This is because “a combination of civil society partners is often more effective, since it combines different skills and has a more powerful voice.”

Touching on TBG, Mr. Smiet said it is a member of a Strategic Partnership known as the “Green Livelihood Alliance.” This partnership seeks to lobby, advocate, dialogue and dissent on the values of two forest landscapes in Ghana namely: The Atewa Forest Landscape and the Densu Delta.

He said that, together, the partnership would present a powerful voice that cannot be ignored on issues that pertain to the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen who live and depend on these landscapes.

TBG has been evolved out of Tropenbos International (TBI) Ghana, with its head office at Wageningen, The Netherlands that has been implementing national and multi-country projects including the EU-Funded project on illegal chain saw milling.

Like all good societal entities that make time to pause for reflection to re-strategise and re-position themselves for more effective delivery, TBG is now positioned as a legally autonomous organisation, poised to function “as a legal Think Tank in the forestry sector” both locally and internationally within the next 10 years.

It has a vision to become “a leading organisation that influences forest policy and practice for enhanced livelihoods and sustainable development,” in the country.

Accordingly, TBG will be pursuing strategic objectives including identifying emerging themes and cross-cutting issues in forestry for policy analysis and advocacy; and creating networks for strategic partnerships and collaboration in research, advocacy and capacity building.

These are contained in TBG’s Ten-Year Strategic Plan that was launched earlier in the ceremony by the Deputy Minister of Lands and Forestry, Benito Owusu Bio. He welcomed the on-going reform process of TBG to enable it impact positively on the forestry and the environment sectors in the years to come.

Mr. Bio said this was a crucial development in view of the major challenge facing Ghana’s forestry sector: “… how to restore degraded forest lands to benefit people and the environment, and make forestry a more competitive land-use.”

He stressed that government was not only interested in forest benefits, but also greatly committed to its sustainable management and has therefore come up with various initiatives.

These include the National Plantation Development Programme, the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade/Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT/VPA) and the Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+), being pursued by the Ministry as some of the initiatives, “meant to strengthen our arms in dealing with deforestation and forest degradation,” he said.

The Deputy Minister acknowledged the immense contribution and support of donor partners like the Royal Netherlands Embassy and the Dutch government for funding forestry sector projects and especially for supporting Tropenbos activities in Ghana.

He was certain that government’s commitment to forest restoration and sustainable forest management coupled with the rich experiences and knowledge of TBG, will contribute to turn things around in the sector.

Board members of the TBG were also introduced and inducted into office by Nana Tawiah Okyere of also of GIMPA’s Law Faculty and Taylor Crabbe, an environmental legal consortium.

The seven member board members are: Professor Alfred Oteng-Yeboah of the University of Ghana, Legon; Professor Victor Agyeman, Director-General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); Akwasi Agyei Yeboah, a Private Plantation Developer and former Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources; and Mrs. Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, Associate Executive Director of Wacam.

The others are Mrs. Juliana Asante Dartey of a ASNAP; Raphael Yeboah, a Professional Forester and Legal Practitioner; and Musa Abu-Juam, Technical Director Director in-charge of Forestry at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.

On behalf of the Board members, Prof. Oteng-Yebaoh, who is the Chairman, expressed his gratitude for their election to steer the affairs of the new TBG. He described it as “a heavy responsibility … as it marks a new beginning for the group that is still re-engineering itself.”

Prof. Oteng-Yeboah pledged that they would work alongside the 17 goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are guiding the global development agenda for the next 50 years. He said in discharging their duties, “we will depend on what is available, look back to the past for reference and formulate solutions to address tomorrow’s problems.”

For his part the Executive Director of TBG, Kwabena Nketiah, said in its new posture, his organisation would have to adapt and remain relevant as a localised non-profit organisation and independent entity in its governance, funding and operations.

But the TBG will not be completely severed from its mother organisation.  Mr. Nketiah said it would still share in the vision and branding of TBI.

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang, Accra, Ghana

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