‘The Liberian Government Must Pay Forest Communities’ Benefits’ – NUCFDC, NBST Urged
Monrovia, August 5, 2021: The National Benefit Sharing Trust (NBST) Board is joining the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committee (NUCFDC) in calling on the Government of Liberia (GoL) to pay what it owes to the affected communities of Logging Companies.
The non-payment of these funds shows lack of willingness to uphold its obligation required by the National Forestry Reform Law (NFRL) of 2006 and the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) signed with the European Union. It is also an affront to the government acclaimed pro-poor agenda that purportedly claims to empower the poor.
Since 2017, not a penny has been paid to these affected communities in spite of numerous efforts by national and international stakeholders to engage specifically the Ministry of Finance through which the funds should be disbursed to the communities. “This type of act undermines sectorial reforms to ensure that Natural Resources exploitation is decentralized and benefits all Liberians especially those that live at the fringes of the forest” The leadership of the National Benefits Sharing Trust (NBST) Board stressed. As of date the government owes the communities over $5.5M USD being 30% share of Land Rental Fees Government had collected from logging companies from 2009 to 2019.
Earlier this year, following a Legislature dialogue organized by the Forest Development Authority (FDA) and partners, members of the Legislature in attendance through a resolution agreed to pursue the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) to ensure that an initial payment of the community funds was incorporated into the Special Budget for the fiscal year 2021/2022. As discussions are ongoing on the Special Budget, we call on the Government to make good of their promises and legal obligation by ensuring that what the government owes are provided for in the budget.
The communities have explored other avenues for dialogue seeking to reach an amicable solution with the government but without any success. The MFDP to a greater extend has not been responsive to these efforts. “We expect that while our international partners are struggling to support and strengthen governance processes, it is incumbent that the government does its part to avoid any further community frustration and protest”, the Board has warned.
We call on the Legislature to ensure that the necessary steps are taken by the requisite authorities to address the concerns of the communities.
The NBST Board is a product of the National Forest Reform Law of 2006 as provided for in Section 14.2e & f; 19.1a & d, Part Three, Section 32 of Authority Regulation 106-07 with a mandate to represent the interest of rural forest-based people/communities affected by logging in terms of managing and ensuring they receive 30% share of land rental fees from Logging Companies operating in their areas. It has been in operation since 2015, and by 2017 had received 2.6M USD on behalf of forest affected communities. These funds were disbursed to communities in support of development projects of their own interest and type.