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Listening to what Liberians say about their forest governance

Neeta HoodaContributed by Neeta Hooda, Senior Carbon Finance Specialist at the World Bank

I recently came back from Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, energized. Although the sustainable management of Liberia’s vast forests continues to pose many challenges, the country has the opportunity to benefit from international processes that seek to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and improve governance and trade (FLEGT-VPA). These processes are supported by a myriad of development partners, including the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), where I work. In April 2013, we supported a workshop to try to understand some of the persistent forest governance challenges in Liberia, using a tool developed by PROFOR and adapted to the country context. Different stakeholders worked in groups to score a forest governance questionnaire that explored issues ranging from the quality of forest legislation, to effectiveness of participation, to conflict resolution and corruption. (There were 97 questions in all, many highly relevant in the context of REDD+.)

One of the most striking things was to see officials from the Forestry Development Authority and other government departments, district officials, NGOs, private entrepreneurs (charcoal manufacturers, for example) and development partners--people with diverse perspectives, interests and mandates‚ÄĒsit at the same table and discuss contentious governance concerns in an open and constructive manner. The Managing Director of FDA was fully engaged in the workshop and made a strong pitch to create an intersectoral coordination mechanism at the Cabinet level to facilitate REDD+ implementation.

The issues identified in the workshop supported and validated many of the actions proposed under the country’s Readiness-Preparation Proposal (R-PP). A broad finding from the self-assessment exercise was that while much of the legal, policy and regulatory frameworks for Liberia’s forests is sound, implementation and enforcement of laws and regulations is generally weak, requiring urgent capacity building.

Workshop participants also identified a number of specific actions for follow up:

  • Reconsider land-use issues, finalize land-use policy in the country, and assess the policy for REDD+.
  • Raise awareness on policies and incentives to ensure sustainability of the sector.
  • Promote community participation in setting up good governance, especially for REDD+, in line with the Liberia¬† Community Rights law.
  • Review existing national safeguards and their relevance for REDD+, and complete a Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA).
  • Work on community access, benefits and livelihoods.
  • Establish simple and practical grievance redress mechanisms.
  • Assess and enhance the quality of forest management plans for public forests.
  • Enhance the participation of women.
  • Ensure the dissemination of quality information to stakeholders; enhance the implementation of the Public Information Act for effective dissemination of information on governance and REDD+.

(A full account of the workshop is available as a PDF document below.)

Finally, capturing stakeholder perceptions in a systematic manner has helped establish the governance baseline in the context of REDD+ in Liberia. Some of the priorities highlighted by the stakeholders will be included in the national monitoring and evaluation framework for REDD+.

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