This paper analyses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the Ghana VPA process.
The identified weaknesses undermine the strengths.
The multi-stakeholder platform is seen as a top-down process.
The VPA has influenced legal reforms and brought some legal clarity, yet implementing the reforms remains a challenge.
Implementing agencies need to address the unequal power relations between domestic actors if forest governance issues are to be addressed.
The European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) is an important international forest governance initiative, yet various implementation challenges remain. The FLEGT VPA implementation challenges are well-documented in the scientific literature, where various methodologies and research approaches have been used. As the empirical case indicated various contradicting and overlapping claims, where different respondents framed the same situations as strengths as well as weaknesses, and/or as threats as well as opportunities, we used the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) approach to assess the associated governance changes in FLEGT VPA implementation in Ghana. This paper offers new insights derived from participant observation of the second independent technical evaluation of the Ghana Timber Legality Assurance System (GhTLAS) conducted in July 2019, and from semi-structured interviews with key informants and a document review. What are considered the greatest perceived strengths – namely multi-stakeholder engagement, clarification of regulatory frameworks, and access to information – are brought into question once the identified weaknesses and threats are explored in more detail. The identified weaknesses include the top-down nature of the multi-stakeholder process, fatigue related to additional legality principles, and bureaucracy of the GhTLAS, which negatively affect VPA implementation activities and processes in Ghana.