LIBERIA: President Weah should share the blames amidst his call for equity and fair share in climate financing 

Paul M. Kanneh reports for Liberia Forest Media Watch| flmw.foresreporters@gmail.com/paulkanneh5@gmail.com

President George Manneh Weah

In Glasgow, November 1, 2021 at COP 26, Liberian President George Weah boldly called for fair and equitable distribution of climate financing. In speech, he lamented that countries with rich forest and biodiversity are in fact the ones benefiting the least from the existing solutions and financial arrangements intended to tackle climate change. 

 “We who are the richest in terms of forest resources and biodiversity, are the poorest in terms of socio-economic development.  Although we bear the brunt of the impact of climate change, we benefit the least from the existing solutions and financial arrangements currently in place for tackling climate change,” Pres. Weah said… https://frontpageafricaonline.com/front-slider/liberia-president-weah-calls-world-leaders-attention-to-the-imbalance-in-climate-financing-says-countries-like-liberia-deserve-better/.

Although President Weah rightly points out that rich countries should pay poorer countries more to protect and sustainably manage their forests, President Weah’s government should be honorable enough to admit it is currently failing to control the rampant illegal logging in Liberia. This means not only that Liberia’s forests are being destroyed, it also means the government does not get the revenue from logging it should be getting.

In October 2019, the World Bank concession review uncovered that that no forest concession was in compliance with applicable regulations and communities lost out on an estimated 20 million USD. https://loggingoff.info/library/legality-review-of-forest-concessions-in-liberia-final-draft/ Current arrears from the logging companies to the Government amount to 16 million USD.
https://www.forest-trends.org/publications/community-benefits-sharing-in-the-forestry-sector-liberias-legislative-framework-track-record-on-sharing-land-rental-fees-from-commercial-forestry-2007-2019/.

The illegal logging case of TSCA2 presented by three NGOs SDI, CSIFM on 5 November is a case in point: 14,000 M3 of ekki illegally harvested, and a volume worth nearly US$2.5 million exported with individuals in the FDA being complicit. https://loggingoff.info/library/ifm-briefing-9-logging-outside-tsc-a2-a-three-year-permit-issued-in-2009/?lang=fr.

This case of TSCA2 is, however, far from the only one. Community forests which have a huge potential to contribute to mitigating climate change are today specifically seen as a conduit for illegal logging and corruption. There are many reasons for this but the FDA not doing its job to control logging and support the communities is a key one.

The government of Liberia has also shown little interest in acting on media and CSOs reports on infractions. A 2019 report of illegal logging by a company remained unattended to despite calls by the NGO Coalition of Liberia for detailed investigation.  https://frontpageafricaonline.com/environment/liberia-ngo-coalition-calls-on-the-govt-to-investigate-illegal-logging-consistent-noncompliance-by-delta-timber-company-in-sinoe/

In the midst of all these challenges, communities have struggled in seeking redress to the many violations including delays in payment of logging revenues. After nearly three years of protests, the government of Liberia recently paid communities US$200,000 – out of USD 5.5. million. This is welcome, but just a drop in the ocean. https://thedaylight.org/2021/10/19/government-pays-logging-communities-us200k/.

While communities don’t get the funds they are owed, the Government has paid lawmakers over USD 3 million for legislative support projects https://newspublictrust.com/local-communities-being-starved-of-forest-royalties-as-their-lawmakers-get-us30k-each/.

Therefore, while we support the call by President Weah for more financial support to countries with rich forest and biodiversity, it is equally necessary for the President to show his government is actively addressing these illegalities and is changing his government’s lackadaisical attitude towards forest protection and law enforcement. Asking for more money from the international community has to go hand in hand with showing that Liberia can manage and protect its forests and enforce its laws.

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