Liberia CSOs Launch Advocacy Against Illegality Logging And Noncompliance To Social Agreement
On October 19, 2018, Liberian Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) under the banner National NGO Coalition of Liberia (NCL), in partnership with the Volunteers to Support International Efforts in Developing Africa (VOSIEDA) and Tropenbos International (TBI) with funding support from the European Union launched an advocacy strategy against illegal logging and noncompliance to social agreement in the forestry sector in Liberia. The advocacy strategy was developed by the Core Team of the NCL following review of several research papers on illegalities in the forestry sector. It was lunched under the theme “Setting the state for campaign against illegal logging and blatant disregard for community’s rights and benefits”.
One of Liberia’s leading human rights activists, Samuel Kofi Woods launched the strategy. The strategy is part of the EU-Non State Actors (EU NSA) Project that is strengthening the capacity of non-state actors to improve FLEGT-VPA and REED+ processes in West Africa, and is being implemented by VOSIEDA and TBI with funding support from the EU.
A statement delivered by the leadership of the Coalition said, the strategy focuses on three recommendations from the NCL Core Team review, including, making available final copies of the social agreements and contracts signed between communities and companies; and making clearer cubic meters fees payment protocol and push for the repeal of the law abolishing the ‘bid premium law’ (Forestry Industrial Development and Employment Regime Act of 2017).
The statement is quoted as saying that, in February 2018, the NCL Core Team reviewed 15 briefing papers published by the Civil Society Independent Forest Monitors (CS-IFM) covering 2014-2017. These publications highlighted illegalities, noncompliance to social agreements and concession contract by loggers.
From the 15 briefing papers reviewed, the Core Team said it identified 79 recommendations as areas of attention. Out of the 79 recommendations, 31 recommendations were observed as not being addressed.
Following thorough review around the unaddressed 31 recommendations, the Core Group concluded on 10 recommendations for action in 2018 by the EU NSA project as priorities for the NCL in keeping with VOSIEDA’S guidance.
The statement further noted that, context and content analyses conducted on the 10 recommendations found 2 priority areas as untouched. Meanwhile, eight of the 10 recommendations were found to be already incorporated in the EU NSA project, said the statement.
Against this background, the NCL stated that an advocacy strategy was developed around the 2 recommendations along with the campaign to repeal the law suspending the bid premium law (FIDERA).
The strategy seeks to address complaints from forested communities on lack of knowledge on the social contract signed between community and contract holders. When fully implemented, communities are expected to have access to final copies of contracts and social agreements.
“Having no access to final copies of contracts and social agreements has significantly underpinned progress in the sector and undermined transparency and accountability in implementing these agreements, thus denying communities their just benefits in line with social agreements in the forest sector”, the statement further explained.
In an exclusive interview with the press following the launching, the Program Manager of VOSIEDA, Abraham Billy disclosed that, making final copies of social agreements and cubic meter fees public is likely to increase community chances to benefit from logging activities.
He said,this will further enable communitiesto demand their just benefits as far as their knowledge on the contract is concern.
Additionally, Mr. Billy noted that the strategy aims to minimize tension, mitigate challenges in implementation and help community members take ownership of the social agreementssigned between them and contract holders.
“Enacting laws or regulations on how community access their cubic meter fees (either from tree data form or log data form or export data form), reduces the flagrant disregard to the payment of cubic meter fees. This would enhance a more transparent and accountable way that will benefit communities”, he concluded.