The Norwegian and Liberian Governments have announced a US$150 million partnership that would benefit the latter.
The announcement was made Tuesday, September 23 at the UN Climate Summit in New York.
The partnership is geared toward putting a stop to the destruction and deforestation of Liberia’s rainforest.
A press statement issued by the forest watch dog, Global Witness Tuesday, hailed the partnership between Liberia and Norway as steps to Liberia’s forest development, growth and progress.
Accordingly, the deal foresees an end to new logging contracts, more scope for forest-dependent communities to manage their forests, and increase protected forest areas, Global Witness statement said.
As Liberia contends with a horrifying Ebola outbreak, this partnership would reduce incentives for Liberia to liquidate its forests for cash, and would help put the country’s shattered economy on a more sustainable path towards poverty reduction and environmental protection.
The agreement is part of Norway’s plan to help cut carbon emissions globally through preventing deforestation in an effort to reduce the impacts of climate change.
“Yesterday’s announcement by Liberia and Norway is momentous,” said Global Witness Director Patrick Alley. “For decades Liberia’s forests have been more of a curse than a blessing.”
“The experiment to generate economic development through industrial scale logging has failed, with logging companies routinely logging illegally, skirting taxes, and causing huge damage to forests and forest communities.
The proposed shift towards community management and conservation could be a profound reversal of that failed model.”
Liberia is home to 43 percent of the remaining Upper Guinean rainforest, which also covers parts of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.
It is estimated that one third of Liberia’s 4.3 million people live in the country’s forests with many more reliant on them.
Under the terms of the Norway-Liberia agreement Liberia has pledged to: place a moratorium on new logging contracts and review logging concessions that are illegal or not performing.
It will also increase support for communities wishing to manage their forests, including practical training and research into new sustainable forest economies.
Liberia agreed to conserve at least 30 percent or more of Liberia’s forests as protected areas.
The West African nation also said it will respect the rights of rural landowners, including those who own their land under customary law, and ensure that decisions are made only with their free, prior and informed consent.
For Norway, it will first assist Liberia in building systems to create new models of forest management, measure carbon stock, and monitor results.
Beyond that, direct payments will be made to the Government of Liberia when it can start proving that deforestation rates are decreasing.
Implementing these commitments will not be easy, capacity within the Liberian Government is low and will be damaged further by the current Ebola epidemic.
Logging companies still operating in the country have broken Liberian laws in the past, and continue to seek new loopholes to access Liberia’s forests.
Global Witness is also concerned that the deal could open the door to new agriculture investors, like oil palm companies, some of which have a record of felling forests and grabbing community lands.
The agreement requires that new investors avoid deforestation and respect land rights. But for these protections to be enforceable, Liberia will need to adopt laws that ensure these protections.
“Over the past two years, the Liberian Government has taken steps to improve governance and is now showing real commitment to helping communities, not companies, benefit from the forest,” said Alley.
“With yesterday’s pledges and Norway’s help, we are hopeful that Liberia will continue down this path, although ultimately the proof of this deal will be in its implementation,” Global Witness stressed.
The Liberia-Norway partnership would also be key to helping Liberia recover from what has become the world’s worst outbreak of the Ebola virus which, beyond the immediate humanitarian crisis, would deal what the World Bank has termed a “potentially catastrophic blow” to Liberia’s economy in the long-term.
“Our thoughts are with the Liberian people during this difficult time,” said Alley.
“Once the disease is defeated, however, Liberia would have the opportunity to rebuild in a way that benefits its government, the forests, and the populations’ dependent upon them who are among Liberia’s most vulnerable people,” Global Witness concluded.