Liberia: International Forest and Climate Resilience Conference Hosted Today

…. Liberia’s forest sector has the potential to contribute to the reduction of extreme poverty and support increased prosperity but the remaining forest blocks are under increasing threat.

Liberia is hosting an international forest and climate conference, expected to reassess the commitment of the Liberian government and the international community to the protection of the country’s rainforest, the largest in the west African region.

The event comes amid widespread irregularities and impunity in Liberia’s forestry sector.

“There are doubts from some partners that Liberia is not moving in this direction, but the forest law says we should put under conservation at least 30 percent of all our remaining forest estates to conservation,” Saah David, Jr., the national coordinator of REDD+, one of the organizers of the event.

REDD+ means reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

“The forum will be used as a means to now push partners to also recommit to helping Liberia help itself,” David added.

The high-level Forest and Climate Resilience Forum which runs from February 2-3, 2023, is designed to catalyze renewed commitments and strengthen partnerships in sustainable forest management as key strategies supporting the Government of Liberia’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).

President George Manneh Weah is expected to officially address the opening session of the Forum. Other co-conveners of the event are USAID-Liberia, UNDP, the Swedish Embassy, the European Union, and the Government of the United Kingdom through its Embassy in Liberia.

The event is expected to mobilize about 200 participants and will feature high-level regional and international Ministers and Directors spearheading forest management in their respective countries. The platform will set the stage for community leaders, global experts on forests, economic development, and climate change, private sector leaders, and development partners to share success stories about the benefits and opportunities the forest sector can offer to the overall economic development of Liberia.

Prominent among high-level presentations and keynote speeches expected to be delivered will come from the Minister of Climate and Environment of Norway, senior World Bank officials, representatives of the United Nations agencies in Liberia, the European Union, regional Ministers of Forestry and Environment of Cote d’Ivoire, the Republic of Sierra Leone, and the Republic of Ghana. Other high-profile keynote speakers expected to deliver papers at the event are Professor Wilson Tarpeh, Executive Director of Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including recognized local leaders and champions of sustainable forest management across forest-dependent communities in Liberia.

Liberia’s forest sector has the potential to contribute to the reduction of extreme poverty and support increased prosperity along a low emissions development trajectory. However, the remaining forest blocks are under increasing threat due to their continued degradation and clearance for agricultural expansion, illegal logging, and mining activities, at both industrial and subsistence scales.

The conference, which was rescheduled from October last year, will feature experiences from Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Ghana, a country that has just been enrolled into the global carbon financing program. Ghana is now the second country in Africa after Mozambique to receive payments from the World Bank for reducing its carbon emission.

The conference comes at a time the Liberian forestry sector is marred by illegalities. Associated Press recently reported that President George Weah ignored calls from foreign partners to tackle the illegalities in the forestry sector. The investigation report highlighted illegalities in the forestry sector. Liberia failed the natural resource management component of the Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC), an American agency that measures countries’ economic policies and potential for growth.

The report said Weah had ignored calls from the international community to address forestry non-compliance, saying they were “nonsense.”

The low budgetary allotment has been another issue. In the 2021/2022 fiscal year, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) received just below US$2.9 million, more than 90 percent of which is employees’ salaries.

But there has been some progress made in the sector. Liberia has created the Sapo National Park, the East Nimba Nature Reserve, Lake Piso Multiple Use Reserve, and the Gola National Forest. It has begun the establishment of proposed protected areas: Kpo, Krahn-Bassa Foya and others.