Liberia: Environmental Working Sector Group Concludes Retreat with Resolve to Beef Up Timely Reporting, Greening the Pro-poor Agenda

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MONROVIA – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with major stakeholders making up the Environmental Sector Working Group (ESWG) concluded a two-day retreat in Kakata, Margibi County recommitting themselves to actively collaborating on key environmental issues in the country.

The retreat was aimed at sharing progress reports of the sector and develop a two-year work plan that greens the implementation of Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD); strengthening coordination within the sector to ensure smooth implementation of national development agenda and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs); promote environmental information, data and knowledge sharing and promote “Green” public awareness and education.

At the opening of the retreat on Thursday, September 5, 2019, the Deputy Executive Director of EPA, Randall Dobayou appreciated organizers of the retreat, noting that prompt attention to environmental issues has direct and indirect benefits.

He lamented the pace at which Liberia’s mangroves which have the capacity to restore five million metric tons of micro carbon annually is disappearing at a very fast pace.

“What we need to do to protect trees and environment as a government is to safeguard. This retreat is intended to inform and remind us to do proper planning in our various ministries and agencies when we return to Monrovia,” Dobayou said. 

He hoped that the Kakata retreat would provide outcomes that could be included in the EPA’s national development agenda for decision making purposes.

Also speaking at the opening of the retreat, an Assistant Minister for Development Planning at the Ministry of Finance, Benedict Kolubah, provided an overview of the government’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) and the environmental related components of the PAPD.

He disclosed that at the Finance Ministry, they have decided to work with the Budget Committee would work with the Environmental Sector Working Group to plan the budget for the fiscal year. According to him, the Ministry is preparing a document that would streamline the issues of climate change when it comes to budget planning.

Asst. Minister Kolubah shed some light on how human activities affect the environment and noted that such human activities must be addressed.

 The Managing for Planning and Policy, Mr. Z. Elijah Whapoe, who is also the Coordinator for ESWG at the EPA discussed the importance of sharing progress reports of the sector and the need to develop a two-year work that greens the implementation of the Pro-poor Agenda.

Mr. Whapoe stressed the need to strengthen coordination within the sector to ensure smooth implementation of the national development agenda and Multilateral Environmental Agreements. 

He said the preservation of the environment depends on all stakeholders and policy makers and further emphasized that there is the need to promote environmental information, data and knowledge.

Mr. Whapoe commended the Government of Liberia for setting up a budget committee to work with the ESWG to develop an operational budget for the next fiscal year.

He, however, frowned on failure of some line ministries and agencies which failed to submit report to the ESWG to enhance information sharing.

Mr. Steven B. Lavala, Associate Director for Marine Environmental Protection at the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) elaborated on how some environmental challenges Liberia faces can be solved through effective environmental management. 

Having provided the background of the ESWG Report Summary, Policies, Regulations and Guidelines, Mr. Lavala said the ESWG is supposed to receive eight reports from government institutions and a civil society organization out of 18 reporting institutions.

He over 20 environmental related policies, regulations and guidelines have been developed, 50 plus environmental related assessments and monitoring exercises conducted; over 35 national environmental related capacity building workshops held; and over 15 foreign conferences, workshops, seminars, and forums attended. He said that some of these policies have validated or ongoing. 

The Deputy Director for Conservation International, Peter Mulbah, through a video gave stakeholders a visual understanding of blue ocean threats as a result of pollution and climate change. He stressed the need for promoting sustainable ocean and marine governance in Liberia. This, he said, would change the hearts and minds of decision-makers and stakeholders invested in the ocean and push new and innovative policies to protect Liberia’s coastal and marine resources – and Africa more broadly.

Mr. Paul Kennedy provided an Overview of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact; Compact Grant; Competitive Process, Liberia’s Selection, Compact Proposal; Accountable Entity Establishment (Oct. 15, 2015) and the MCA/LEC Projects Implementation. 

Mr. Kennedy further provided information on the MCAL Contributions to the PAPD. Some of the contributions are to ensuring compliance with policies, guidelines and standards; Project implementation, monitoring and oversight and Institutional Strengthening.

Mr. Saah A. David, Jr., National Coordinator, RIU/FDA presented on the Liberia Forest Sector Project (LFSP) and The Status of REDD+ in Liberia. 

He noted that the REDD+ Programme goal is to promote local livelihoods through sustainable forest management, biodiversity conservation; carbon emissions reduction and equitable benefit sharing.

The objectives of the program, according to him, are to implement a system that targets reduction of major drivers of deforestation and degradation in Liberia; work with local communities in improving forest management by introducing sustainable livelihood program and improve community’s stewardship of natural resources through capacity development initiatives.

According to him, in 2012, Liberia obtained funding from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) through the World Bank, implement its Readiness Preparation Activities for REDD+ to address outstanding activities to ensure Liberia is ready for REDD+ implementation, an additional funding was received in 2015. 

In line of this the Forestry Development Agency is the designated national authority to implement REDD+ activities in collaboration with key partners including government institutions, civil society organizations, academia, private sector, local communities, amongst others.

Mr. J.S. Datuama Cammue, CBD focal point, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided details information on Biodiversity Management in Liberia. He highlighted challenges and opportunities. He also elaborated on the two major threats to biodiversity in Liberia.

Mr. Sete Marshall, National Ozone Officer, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented on current status of the montreal protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer in Liberia and its contributions to the sustainability and attainment of the Pro-Poor Agenda For Prosperity And Development.

Jefferson Nyandibo Asst. Manager for Planning presented on the Environmental Targets for reporting (Pillar II). 

Mr. Jefferson Dahn Asst. Manager for Policy presented on the Environmental Targets for reporting (Pillar IV).

The retreat ended with a group working session on the how the environmental sector working group proposed work plan support the greening of the PAPD and how the environmental sector working group strengthen environmental information sharing among entities.

The ESWG two-year work program was validated and resolution on the retreat was drawn.

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