Liberia and EU recognise progress and agree to strengthen VPA implementation
The fourth meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC), which oversees implementation of the FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Liberia and the EU, took place in Monrovia on 21-23 September 2016.
Topics discussed during the meeting included law enforcement and improvement of the regulatory framework for the forestry sector; progress in developing new software (LiberTrace) for the chain of custody and legality verification; and capacity building for Liberia.
The JIC recognised important progress made in 2016, but noted areas where implementation is not on track. While all the necessary structures exist to move the VPA forward, for instance, a more structured plan is needed to guide all the different actors involved in the process.
Under the VPA, Liberia has committed to develop a timber legality assurance system and export to the EU only verified legal, FLEGT-licensed, timber products. The EU has committed to allow imports of FLEGT-licensed timber from Liberia to enter the EU market without additional checks.
The JIC noted that while the VPA is helping to secure revenue from the forestry sector, the Forest Development Authority’s (FDA) limited budgetary allocation has delayed VPA implementation. The EU and the FDA agreed on the need to make the Government of Liberia more broadly accountable for the VPA’s implementation and to channel some of the resources back to the FDA and the forestry sector.
The Liberian delegation in the JIC meeting stressed the importance of developing, with the support of international donors, a well-trained, equipped and operational Forestry Development Authority.
This would enable Liberia to sustainably manage its forest resources and issue FLEGT licences for exports, generating social benefits and much-needed revenues from timber and non-timber resources, as well as providing benefits to affected communities.
"[The VPA is] a mechanism for Liberia to generate revenues and economic growth through its own natural resources,” said Tiina Intelmann, the EU Ambassador to Liberia, noting that the process has already secured over 9 million dollars of revenue to the country. “We are happy to see that some of these resources have already been channelled into projects for forest communities. We encourage the government to remain committed politically and financially to this process."
More details of the JIC discussions can be found in the meeting’s summary (aide-memoire), which is published on the website of the FDA. In the name of transparency, the JIC also decided to make all the presentations of the technical sessions available. The next meeting of the JIC is scheduled for the second half of March 2017, in Monrovia.