The Board chair of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Harrison Karnweah Sr, has underscored the importance of the validation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which will enable Liberia to issue flag certificates.
Mr. Karnwea made the assertion on Friday, February 5, 2021 at the VPA Forward Planner workshop held at a local resort in Monrovia, when he indicated that this agreement is intended to ensure that timber and forestry products from Liberia is marketed in Europe legally.
“This workshop is intended to discuss the Forward Planner issues. We are here to plan for the future implementation of this agreement and all that remains to be done. I’m delighted that all the agencies involved with the implementation of this VPA have shown up and en masse,” Mr. Karnwea said.
Mr. Karnwea said if Liberia fails to complete the agreement, the country will not issue flag certificates for a very long time. He indicated Indonesia and Ghana are the two countries ahead of Liberia so far and it’s possible for Liberia to be nest to Indonesia.
He said the full representation of ministries and agencies at the workshop show that Liberia is ready to move ahead in issuing flag certificates in the soonest possible time.
Theo Kaspers, head of Cooperation for the European Union (EU) office in Liberia, said the agreement is cardinal because it will help Liberia to issue flag licenses.
Mr. Kaspers said if the validation process is completed, it will serve as a bigger source of revenue for the country.
“If Liberia is issuing licenses, it will open up European Markets to Liberia. It’s the market where the highest price of timber can be obtained,” Mr. Kaspers said.
He said the team Europe has to be transformative and also deliver results, stating “we need to show in the biodiversity that in the next seven years, we can show results and one of the ways to show that Liberia is serious is to issue flag licenses.”
C. Mike Doryen, Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), said if Liberia must succeed at the level needed under this is program, there’s a need to understand the Forward Planner and issues needed to be resolved.
“I am glad that all the ministries and agencies are on board now, whose activities contribute toward the success of Forward Planner,” Mr. Doryen said.
According to Mr. Doryen, one of the issues faced in the past is where to get money from for other agencies whose are not part of the FDA to go and get information in the field but has been addressed.
The one-day workshop brought together heads of ministries and agencies, including Minister Jeanine Cooper of Agriculture Ministry, Thomas Doe-Nah of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and others.
Michael Fischer, Team Leader of Long Term Technical Assistance for the Implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement in Liberia, said the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) is a legally binding trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and a timber-exporting country outside EU countries.
Mr. Fischer said the VPA aims to ensure that all timber and timber products destined for EU market from a partner country comply with the laws of that country, including Decent Work Act, Lands Rights Act, Revenue Code, and Environmental Protection Act.
He said the VPA calls for improve governance and law enforcement on timber for the domestic market and the Progress of the implementation shall be evaluated by the Joint Implementation Committee.
Mr. Fischer said the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) facilitates dialogue and exchange of information between the parties including the government of Liberia and the EU. Among other things, the JIC also “facilitates monitoring and review of the VPA, reviews progress towards achieving the objectives and time-bound action in the VPA and matters relating to its implementation. Proposes and/or takes measures to improve performance of the agreement and meets twice a year and publishes Aide-Memoires,” Mr. Fischer said.
He said there is a need to accelerate VPA implementation using Forward Planner (FP) as a tool to inform the JIC about progress made, agreed timeframes, actions still in progress, key steps to be taken, and individuals responsible for actions.
He said the Government of Liberia and the EU agreed for the senior management at FDA to provide a more direct drive and be present at meetings to support accelerated decision-making in these sessions.
Mr. Fischer said this will help to promote decision-making from other line agencies, more efficient utilization of the Forward Planner (FP) and representatives of further ministries/agencies will be needed to broaden the pool of technicians working with the Forward Planner.
Mr. Fischer said only 46 of 132 verifiers of the Legality Matrix have been activated and road map of activation of the additional 86 verifiers to be concluded by end of the first quarter 2021 and captured in the FP. He said the program calls for creating awareness of decision-makers on the importance of the Forward Planner, including support on decision-makers‘ level to keep the FP updated, support on implementation of activities stated in the FP remain key.