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RRI meetings in Liberia spur dialogue on community forestry and the draft community rights to forest lands law
Last week in Monrovia, Liberia, RRI and Green Advocates hosted meetings that have spurred dialogue among policymakers and civil society about the future of ownership and management of Liberia's rich forest resources.
Researchers, community representatives and members of the RRI coalition met in a series of workshops to discuss and refine preliminary findings from a series of case studies on alternative models of forest enterprise in Ghana, Cameroon, the Gambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Sweden, Canada and Guatemala.
Meeting with government representatives and members of local civil society in a public policy workshop organized by Green Advocates, case study authors and RRI Partners also shared their initial findings on alternative models of forest enterprise and discussed a new Liberian forest law currently in draft.
- Read more about these meetings and their outcomes in the press coverage from Liberian newspapers (see below).
- Learn more about the case study workshops: Alternative Models of Forest Tenure and Enterprise in Central and West Africa - Lessons and Opportunities
- Learn more about the public policy workshop: Community Rights Law with Respect to Forest Lands - Design and Implementation
"Editorial: Hailing the Forest Sector Discourse." The Analyst, April 3, 2008
An Editorial fromLiberia's The Analyst newspaper states "Stakeholders in Liberia's recovery and peace process need to give the ongoing forest discourses taking place in the country this week their ardent attention and interest if this oldest African state is ever to make any meaningful progress in addressing the longstanding woes of the people."
STAKEHOLDERS IN LIBERIA'S recovery and peace process need to give the ongoing forest discourses taking place in the country this week their ardent attention and interest if this oldest African state if is to ever make any meaningful progress in addressing the longstanding woes of the people. Liberians and those helping them recovery from the vicious cycle of political failure and conflict need to listen to case studies and success stories of their compatriots and learn from how they overcame or are overcoming the snags and the phenomenon of "resource curse"--the role national resources play in fanning the flames of poverty and fomenting civil conflicts in the developing world. Liberia is still nursing the fresh wounds of "resource curse"; and it is only prudent that the country and its friends stay awake and attentive to the series of discourses currently taking place in order copy useful alternatives in the managing one of the most abused national resource sector, the forest.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL LAWYERS of Liberia, otherwise known as Green Advocates, and its international partner, Rights and Resource Initiative, have brought a horde of researchers and experts into county to present their perspectives and case studies that could help provide opportunity for Liberian stakeholders to learn of alternative models within and outside Africa; models that promote the development of locally-led networks and initiatives in advancing pro-poor forestry-based growth in this country. Learning lessons about forest ownership and management of other countries such as Guatemala, Sweden, Cameroon, Ghana, amongst others is indeed a positive step not only in enriching land and forest reform initiatives underway, but also in making a fundamental break with the past where our country's resources were in reality owned by expatriate capitals and therefore a curse and not a blessing.
MANY COUNTRIES AROUND us, who have had similar snags that Liberia is now grappling with, have since broken up with the conventional and dominant business model for commercial exploitation of forest resources, which is the export-oriented timber concession model. They have leaped away from this model because it is tested and proven to be responsible for limitation of opportunities of local communities to generate wealth, provide employment for themselves and improve their livelihoods. Furthermore, studies show that the export-oriented model erodes ingenious and customary access and tenure rights of local people and undermine decentralization and devolution of economic rights and franchise.
LET US NOT forget that our African and international compatriots have begun to put up a radical challenge to archaic models in forest resource management. They have gravitated to a new alternative--the informal small-scale enterprise model which is proven and tested to have a greater impact on supporting people living in forest regions such as ours. Examples are commonplace around us. The crusade has begun in Ghana, Cameroon, The Gambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and other countries where experts have come to visit Liberia and share their experiences and perspectives with us.
AT A FORUM today, according to a Green Advocates press release, the visitors will provide case studies and analyses that will identify the constraints of and the opportunities for the development of alternative models to expatriate commercial exploitation of forest resources. They would also make recommendations for tenure policy reforms and suggest ways to enable appropriate realistic pro-poor enterprises.
INDEED, THIS IS a glorious opportunity for Liberia that is currently experimenting with and developing new visions and new strategies to heal Liberia's long history of resource curse. Interacting with the visiting experts and researchers could sharpen both our resolve and insights in reclaiming the future of Liberia from expatriate economic vampires and place Liberia and its resources back in the hands of Liberians.
WE THANK GREEN Advocates and Rights and Resources Initiative for stimulating such a worthy discourse. We hope our academics, representatives, policymakers and researchers will grab the opportunity provided with both hands.
Other Media Coverage in Liberian Press:
- "Locals' exclusion from concession deal worrisome." April 5, 2008.
Head of Green Advocates, Alfred Brownell warns that "continuous exclusion" of communities and forest-dwellers from concession deals made by the national government is a serious threat. Read more in this article from Liberia's The Analyst here.
- "Experts discuss Liberia's forest management." April 3, 2008.
An article in Liberia's The News announces forums at the University of Liberia and the Crystal Oceanview Hotel in which Liberian academics, policymakers and researchers will discuss alternative tenure and enterprise models and present case studies of alternatives to the conventional forest concession industry. Read more from Liberia's The News here or here (at AllAfrica.com).
- "FDA is not owner of Liberia's forests, Director Woods says, as experts shed lights on community forest law." April 7, 2008.
Press coverage from Liberia's Public Agenda emphasizes that the Managing Director of the Forest Development Authity "was quick to point out that community dwellers themselves are the owers and direct beneficiaries of the country's forest." Read more here.
- "Forest Lectures Ongoing in Liberia." April 4, 2008. Liberia's Public Agenda reports on an interactive forum at the University of Liberia, where researchers and experts "were unanimous in their findings and opinions that the conventional and dominant business model for commercial exploitation of forest resources is unhelpful to developing economies and impoverished forest people and locals."
- "Global Witness warns over rush to log forest." April 2, 2008.
An article in Liberia's The Analyst reports on a statement from the NGO Global Witness warning that "under intense pressure from the timber industry, the Forest Development Authority (FDA) has started issuing timber contracts while key legislation" on community rights to forests is still being drafted. Read more here (on the website of The Analyst) or here (at AllAfrica.com).
Posted By Elizabeth Ashamu at 8:29am on April 05, 2008
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