Monrovia – The Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) overseeing the European-Liberia Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) has pledged to end illegal logging activities in Liberia.
Report by Christopher C. Walker 0777898224/0886723075 [email protected]
The Liberia –EU VPA made the pledge after a four-day meeting held in Monrovia from February 25 to March 1, which was co-chaired by Ambassador Hélène Cavé of the EU Delegation to Liberia and Harrison S. Karnwea, Board Chairman, Forestry Development Authority (FDA).
The VPA Meeting that is held twice a year is aimed at improving forest governance, addressing illegal logging and promoting trade in verified legal timber products.
Stakeholders at the four-day meeting included representatives of line ministries and agencies, the NGO Coalition of Liberia, the Liberia Timber Association, the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committees, and the National Union of Community Forest Management Bodies.
The Committee, during their meeting discussed progress made in implementing the system and improving the capacities of government agencies, the private sector, civil society and communities. The economic importance of the forest sector for the economy was another point stressed at the JIC meeting. Several stakeholders noted the key role held by the chain of custody and legality assurance systems in support of the commercial sector in reaching its potential.
The JIC also discussed challenges, such as the Government of Liberia’s delay in disbursing the legally required share of the land rental fee to the National Benefit Sharing Trust Board (NBSTB) due to budgetary constraints. The JIC agreed that more discussions are needed and that a mechanism needs to be established to facilitate future disbursements from the budget. The EU highlighted that Liberia’s legal framework for sharing of benefits with logging affected communities is exemplary, and that the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committees (NUCFDC), the NBSTB, the Government and all stakeholders should work together towards effectively implementing them, so as to be an example of best practices for other countries.
Speaking during the ceremony, Harrison S. Karnwea said Liberia is progressing in the implementation of a system to verify the legality of its timber products from forest to point of export and essential milestones are about to be reached in soonest possible time.
“We are progressing very well; the prospect for 2020 is great. So the Liberian Government is committed to the rule of law.
“This means that Communities that Logging activities are taking place in will benefit that we can assure the community,” Karnwea said.
Mr. Karnwea, who is a former FDA managing director, said since Liberia and the EU negotiated the VPA in 2009 and 2011, Liberia has made great gains in the implementation of the Agreement.
He noted that it is time to end illegal logging in Liberia while calling on locals to report such activities in their community.
EU Ambassador Hélène Cavé, reflecting on the progress of the Implementation of the VPA, said it is a legal trade agreement that is intended to generate revenues for Liberia by positioning the country’s export of timber products in high value markets in Europe and other parts of the world.
“After more than five years of working together towards that goal, we should today acknowledge and commend the significant qualitative improvement that our collaboration has been experiencing. Overtime we have learned to work better together.”
“The Government of Liberia will soon assume the responsibility in the management of the timber chain of custody. A credible and well-structured chain of custody provides the credibility required for Liberia’s exports of timber products. Failing to maintain this system will certainly erode market confidence and harm revenue collection, the EU stands ready to accompany this government,” Ambassador Cave said. “Finally and also importantly, we have agreed to enhance transparency and communications within the VPA process and we welcome the strong commitment expressed by the FDA to end Illegal logging in Liberia.”