Liberia, EU Sign 10th Forest Management Agreement

The Liberian Government, through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and the European Union (EU) Delegation in Liberia, have concluded their 10th Joint Implementation Committee Meeting (JIC), which was intended to come up with a new Aid Memoire to oversee the implementation of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Liberia and the EU.

The four-day meeting, which was held in Monrovia from June 12-15, 2023, was co-chaired by Mr. Harrison S. Karnwea Sr., Chair of the Board of the FDA and Ambassador Laurent Delahousse, Head of the EU Delegation to Liberia. Both men affixed their signatures to the new Aid Memoire on the last day of the meeting, which brought together major stakeholders in the forest sector in Liberia.

The technical discussions were co-chaired by Mr. C. Mike Doryen, Managing Director of the FDA, and Montse Pantaleoni, Team Leader Green Team at the EU Delegation.

In his welcome remarks, MD Doryen noted the importance of JIC meetings for forest governance. Doryen highlighted that although targets around the VPA process may appear ambitious, the JIC provides a necessary forum to work towards those targets. He particularly welcomed the participation of community representatives and civil society. The FDA MD expressed his desire for open and respectful JIC discussions.

In his opening remarks, Karnwea welcomed the EU and Liberia to the 10th JIC. He welcomed the accomplishments of broader VPA objectives over the last 10 years and identified transparency as one of the key achievements of the VPA in Liberia. The FDA Board Chair expressed regret that Liberia has not yet started the issuance of FLEGT licenses and emphasized that the forestry sector should benefit all stakeholders.  Despite that, Karnwea further expressed the need for broader market recognition of verified legal timber beyond EU export markets.

Also in his opening remarks, Amb Delahousse thanked the Government of Liberia for hosting this year’s JIC and echoed remarks of President George Manneh Weah during the opening of the recent Forest and Climate Resilience Forum. At that Forum, the President highlighted that the Government of Liberia shall remain unrelenting in its efforts towards sustainable forest management and shall ensure that forest resources benefit all Liberians. Speaking further, Amb. Delahousse reminded the JIC that carbon finance, conservation funding and VPA implementation are linked because they all require meeting standards on good governance and stakeholder participation. In line with the Global Gateway strategy, in coordination with other donors and as part of a Team Europe Initiative, the Ambassador also announced that the EU is increasing its support to VPA implementation in Liberia.

Also in his opening remarks, Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweah indicated that the VPA reflects the EU and Liberia’s joint commitment to promote sustainability and good forest governance. The Minister highlighted that Liberia’s forests should not only be considered a resource base for commercial forestry. “Liberia’s forests also serve to sequester carbon, harbour biodiversity, and directly benefit its people.” He then reminded the JIC that Article 6 of the Paris Agreement requires strong forest governance and that President Weah committed to halt deforestation in Liberia at the last United Nations Conference of the Parties meeting (COP26).

For his part, Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean concluded the opening session by re-confirming his Ministry’s support to the partnership reflected in the VPA and to the shared goal of increased forest protection. The Minister committed to strengthen collaboration with the FDA and other relevant government agencies towards the full implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement.

Before he had affixed his signature to the 10th Aid Memoire, Amb. Delahousse thanked everyone, adding: “The work that has been done here over the last four days, has been productive, has been intense, and has been lively. We had frankly exchanges on some of the difficult topics. One thing that has been at the heart of the discussions has been the issue of governance as had been addressed at the Forest and Climate Resilience Forum by His Excellency President George Manneh Weah.”

He stressed that sustainable, long-term governance of the forest is at the heart of some of Liberia’s leaders, including President Weah. According to him, these leaders are doing all so that the trees in the Liberia’s forest won’t be cut. “But manage its forest to be a carbon sink in the climatic interest of the planet, including West Africa and in the finance interest of all those people who are depended on the forest, starting with the local forest communities.” He then pledged the EU’s readiness to contribute to the undertakings of the Liberian side.

Also, before he, too, affixed his signature, FDA Board Chair Karnwea expressed how grateful he is to both the EU and Liberian sides for amount of work they put in to reach the 10th JIC. “This JIC has been coming ever since. The last time we sat in this building was in March last year and we are in June, so it’s been one year three months when we should have had two engagements annually. So, we hope that this opens the way for continuous mutual engagements.”

He stated that the Liberian government acknowledges the situation of forest governance and disclosed that it has taken some actions.

“So, it means that Liberia is prepared and ready to engage its partners in the international community to continue to ensure that our forest is managed sustainably for the benefit of this and future generations despite all of the challenges,” he stated.

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