“Liberia’s Forests Are Important to the World”-EU Ambassador -Lauds Strategic Partnership between Liberia and EU

The Head of European Mission to Liberia Ambassador Laurent Delahosse has said that Liberia’s forests are among the few remaining intact forest ecosystems in the world, rich in absolutely unique biodiversity and key as longs to the planet and very critical in the collective global efforts to combat climate change and lauded the good strategic partnership between Liberia and EU in ensuring a robust forest conservation program in the country.

Ambassador Laurent Delahousse made the assertion at the 9th meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee(JIC) of the Liberia-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade(FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement(VPA) which aims to improve forest governance and legality held between March 21st -24th , 2022 at the Monrovia City Hall.

“Liberia is the custodian of a treasure that belongs to the whole world. Liberia’s responsibility in managing this treasure will be judged by History. And what we are doing today, with our friends of the Liberian Government, is this collective effort to ensure, not only the sustainability of the forest for the future generations, but also the fact that this forest brings resources and revenues to finance and to contribute to the development of Liberia. This is compatible: ensure sustainability while generating resources to support the development of the country”, Ambassador Delahousse said.

The top European Diplomat who said that Liberia and the EU have been cooperating for over a decade noted that besides the country’s forests being important to the world, they are also important for the Liberian people, especially all the communities that depend on the forest for their food, their energy and their livelihoods and that legal and sustainably managed forests hold great potential as a long term source of domestic taxation and export revenue.

“When we, Liberia and the EU signed the VPA back in 2011, we took the sovereign decision to work together to build the laws, the processes, and the capacities to ensure that Liberia’s forests can deliver on all these objectives.

We entered into the VPA sovereignly and voluntarily, but it is now a binding agreement. While the objectives are common, the tools are Liberian: it is your legal framework and your governance structures”, he said.

He told the audience that in 2021, President Weah and the President of the European Commission Madame Von der Leyen joined the Leaders’ declaration on Forests and Land Use in Glasgow at the 26th meeting under the UN Agreement on Combating Climate Change where they pledged to conserve forests and implement policies that would ensure their protection, restoration and sustainable use.

He also said that President Weah was in Brussels at the EU Headquarters last month and in his meetings the President spoke once again about the importance of managing Liberia’s resources so that they can contribute to addressing climate change, creating jobs and contributing to the future of Liberia’s children.

While commending the efforts of the VPA, he however lamented that the progress with the VPA has been slowing down unfortunately for a number of years, adding that the joint meeting which was held has been pending for many months since the 8th session in November 2020.

In mentioning some of the intervention by the EU, he said upon request from the government of Liberia, the EU funded an investigation into irregularities related to Timber Sales Contract Area 2, TSCA2. He said that independent investigation was undertaken by the Ministry of Justice upon a recommendation by the FDA Board of Director and identified a range of concerns and noncompliances, at different levels, some of these resulted in legal proceedings.

“I am confident that this 9th session will allow us to move forward sharing information and discussing what we need to do next. I am pleased that we will kick-off by discussing what the various reports and investigations the FDA, the Ministry of Justice and civil society have identified as weaknesses to be addressed, but also recommendations on how to address them and continue down the path set out in the VPA. The JIC isn’t a place for judgements. Its role is to share information, monitoring progress and, informed by our respective experiences, to identify ways to mitigate possible problems and identify how to move forward”, he concluded

According to press release from the program, some of the highlights were the results of an independent investigation carried-out by request of the FDA and the Ministry of Justice into alleged irregularities in Timber Sales Contract Area 2 (TSC A2) were presented alongside the remedial actions already taken by the FDA and a number of further actions foreseen and a dedicated multi- stakeholder committee delivered a technical proposal on how to integrate the laws concerning community forestry into the legality assurance system being developed through the VPA. This proposal will now be reviewed by Liberia and the European Union, with a view to further contributing to the legality and sustainability of Community Forestry.

“The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and the Delegation of the European Union to Liberia co-chaired the meeting. The discussions took place in a framework of partnership, an atmosphere of mutual respect and with participation from a broad range of representatives from other Government of Liberia Ministries and Agencies, representatives of community forests, the private sector, civil society and representatives from the donor community, including the UK Embassy and USAID”, a summary of the report from the meeting stated.

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