Members of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Coalition of Liberia yesterday, October 3, at a ceremony in Monrovia, reaffirmed its unflinching support and commitment to the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) amid effort to stay the course of the process.
The NGO Coalition of Liberia is a conglomeration of local non-governmental organizations working alongside government and international partners, to ensure the prudent management of Liberia’s natural resources, including its forests.
The VPA between the European Union (EU) and the Liberian government is a legally binding trade agreement signed with timber-exporting countries outside the EU.
It’s aim, according to the VPA management chair, Samuel K.B. Kwennah, is to ensure that all timber products destined for the EU market from a partner country such as Liberia comply with the laws of that country.
Henceforth, the VPA is providing a much needed technical support to Liberia’s forestry sector.
Coalition’s reaffirmation to the VPA comes in the wake of a revision of progress during the 6th Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) Forum held in June, 2018, which has resulted into the signing of an aide memoire based on noticeable lapses for the past five years (September 2013-September 2018).
Mr. Kwennah said the need for commitment to this process is reviewed by an annual JIC forum and sealed by an aide memoire.
In spite of completion and publication of the aide memoire, Coalition of Liberia believes that partners should recommit, engage and collaborate on the VPA, which aims to support the prudent management and fair distribution of revenues from natural resources.
The JIC review this year initially ended in a deadlock on June 14, 2018, because the EU and the Liberian government failed to concur on certain key issues that were believed to be very crucial to the process.
However, after a month-long debate (June 14 to July 10, 2018,) which led to clarification and declaration of positions at the level of the VPA, the aide memoire was finally signed on July 10.
The Coalition, like other organizations, fully understands the challenges and constraints the pro-poor government is experiencing in terms of accessing funding for national development. On that account, the Coalition said it must acknowledge that it stands with the government in its drive to attract financial resources to carry out the much needed development.
Kwennah said the Coalition believes such effort must not undermine ongoing reform process in forest governance by the EU and other international partners, which is intended to safeguard the remaining forests and empower community’s members on how to negotiate social agreements.
The NGO Coalition of Liberia and its members implore the government to remain committed and ensure continuance of the VPA as it brings with it immense benefits and immeasurable impact that have been assessed so far.