The Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) overseeing the EU-Liberia Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade has met this week in Monrovia to review progress and challenges in implementing the agreement.
The JIC — whose Liberian members include representatives of government agencies, the private sector, civil society — met in Monrovia from 25 February – 1 March.
The VPA aims to improve forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products.
The JIC discussed progress made in implementing a system to verify the legality of Liberia’s timber products from forest to point of export. Several stakeholders noted the potential for this system to provide a commercial boost to the forest sector, which is already a key contributor to the Liberian economy.
The JIC also discussed challenges, such as the Government of Liberia´s delay in disbursing the legally required share of the land rental fee to the National Benefit Sharing Trust Board (NBSTB) due to budgetary constraints.
The EU highlighted that Liberia’s legal framework for sharing of benefits with logging affected communities is exemplary, and that the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committees (NUCFDC), the NBSTB, the Government and all stakeholders should work together towards effectively implementing them, so as to be an example of best practices for other countries.
The JIC agreed that more discussion is needed and that a mechanism needs to be established to facilitate future disbursements from the budget.
The VPA Secretariat presented the VPA transparency requirements and both parties stressed the importance of the availability of information on the forest sector. The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) committed to make disaggregated information available to the public. The JIC also endorsed a specific communications strategy so as to reach out to the forest stakeholders and the broader public about VPA-related issues, including progress achieved and areas for improvement.
The JIC meeting was co-chaired by Ambassador Hélène Cavé of the EU Delegation to Liberia and Hon. Harrison S. Karnwea, Chairman of the FDA’s Board of Directors.
Participants from Liberia included representatives of ministries and agencies of the Liberian Government, the NGO Coalition of Liberia, the Liberia Timber Association, the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committees, and the National Union of Community Forest Management Bodies.
International partners including the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank also attended the meeting.