Walley’s hope became reality in 2015 when the Government of Liberia paid US$1 million into the trust. This first transfer of Land Rental Fees to the trust is seen as an important success of the VPA.
But this is just one small step in terms of what Liberia and the EU hope to achieve – that Liberia’s timber exports are all legal and that Liberia’s forests benefit those who inhabit and depend on them.
There is still a long way to go, but the problems are being aired and solutions are being put in place.
The VPA has also brought stronger chain of custody controls and a role for independent forest monitors from civil society. “The VPA is supporting that group too,” says Walley. “They will monitor everybody. They’ll monitor the community activities, they monitor government activities, they monitor the loggers.”
T is for…
The VPA is helping Liberia make a historic break with its past and ensure its forests fuel prosperity instead of conflict. Similar changes can be seen elsewhere – the EU has signed VPAs with five other timber producing countries and is in negotiations with nine more.
VPAs are just one aspect of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, which aims to ensure all timber traded with Europe is legal. But for people like Matthew T. Walley, it is much more than that.
“If you would just sit here and get time to look at the different changes that have come about in the forest of Liberia because of the VPA or the FLEGT process you would take near to three hours,” he says. “Because it brought justice, it brought transparency, it brought accountability and it brought… the spirit of wanting to talk to each other.”
“Although you say [the T in FLEGT is for] Trade, we in Liberia we say truth,” he says. “It means the truth will be told.”