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Details of recent achievements in the rehabilitation and reform of Liberia's forestry sector are presented below.

October 2006: United Nations Security Council confirms lifting of timber sanctions

The lifting of timber sanctions on 20 June 2006 was conditional on the passing of a new Liberian forestry law. On 20 October 2006, the United Nations Security Council commended the Liberian legislature for passing this legislation and concluded that there is no basis for reinstating the measures on timber. A copy of the press statement regarding this can be downloaded here. A copy of the new law can be downloaded here.

June 2006: United Nations Security Council lifts timber sanctions

Liberian timber sanctions were lifted on 20 June 2006, when the United Nations Security Council decided not to renew the measure in paragraph 10 of resolution 1521 (2003) that obligates Member States to prevent the import into their territories of all round log and timber products originating in Liberia. A copy of the resolution can be downloaded here.

February 2006: Executive Order adopting the recommendations and report of the Forest Concession Review Committee

All Forest Concessions in Liberia were cancelled on 2 February 2006, with the official adoption of the recommendations and report of the Forest Concession Review Committee by President Johnson-Sirleaf. A copy of the Executive Order can be downloaded here: Zip file (246 KB)

September 2005: Evacuation of squatters from Sapo National Park

Conservationists have moved hundreds of squatters out of Liberia's largest national park, putting an end to their slaughter of wildlife and illegal gold mining. Alexander Peal of Conservation International said about 500 people had been transported out of Sapo National Park in south-eastern Liberia during a five-day programme carried out in conjunction with UN peacekeepers and the government.

Rebel fighters, as well as civilians fleeing violence, moved into the park during the final months of Liberia's 14-year civil war that ended in August 2003. Many were attracted by the prospect of the gold to be mined there and the abundance of lucrative timber. When food supplies dwindled, guns were often turned on the vast array of endangered species living in the park allowing the squatters to feast on bushmeat.

In early March 2005, the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) estimated that there were about 5,000 people living illegally in the park, but Peal said the majority had left before the evacuation started at the end of August. Despite some occupants saying they would rather die than leave the park, Peal said that the operation had passed off smoothly and there had been no violence. Those leaving the park had headed to Zwedru and Greenville, other main towns in the east, as well as the capital Monrovia, some 300 kilometres to the west.

Sapo National Park, which lies in Sinoe County, was established in 1983 and is home to leopards, forest elephants, pygmy hippos and chimpanzees. At some 700 square miles, it is one of the largest blocks of protected forests in West Africa.

Eugene Wilson, the head of Liberia's Forestry Development Agency, said the government had taken action to ensure the Sapo squatters had gone for good. "I can tell you that we have established full control of the Sapo National Park and our trained forest rangers have been deployed there and no unauthorised persons will move in there," Wilson said.

June 2005: Completion of the forest concession review

Forest Concession Review Committee completes Third Phase of review. The Forest Concessions Review Committee presented its final report to National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant on Wednesday, June 29. The committee, chaired by Counselor Frederick Cherue, reviewed all forest concession agreements between the government and private concessionaires as far back as twenty-five years.

United Nations Resolution 1521 (2003) imposed sanctions on the export of Liberian timber and logs and listed several requirements for the lifting of sanctions including: establishment of full control of all forest areas by the Government of Liberia; review all forest concessions in order to set internationally acceptable standards for sustainable forest management; and implementation of good governance in the forest sector.

The NTGL, through its Honorable Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant constituted an 18-person Committee on July 7, 2004, to complete the Concession Review. The committee comprised members from government agencies, civil society, national and international non-governmental organizations and the international community, including the United States Government, European Commission and UNMIL.

The objective of the review was to evaluate forest concession compliance with the rule of law in Liberia. The committee was mandated to evaluate each forest concession based on the following criteria:

A. Verify if concession holder is a bona fide legal business entity authorized to operate in Liberia.

B. Verify authenticity of the concession contract.

C. Examine if the concessionaire acquired other legitimate concession(s).

D. Examine UN Security Council Resolution violations (Arms trade, timber for arms, or aiding and abetting civil instability).

E. Review concession contract for compliance with rule of law.

F. Examine concessionaire compliance with community obligations under the concession contract.

G. Determine concessionaire compliance with financial obligations.

H. Examine concessionaire compliance with applicable labour laws.

The Committee determined that no concession holder complied with the minimum requirements for operating under the rule of law in Liberia. Invalid concession procurement, non-payment of taxes, support to militia and involvement in the arms for timber trade were cited in the report as some of the issues of non-compliance. The key recommendations of the Committee┬┐s report are that the NTGL should cancel all concessions and swiftly move to reform the timber sector.

Other recommendations include:

1. Suspend the granting and allocation of future concessions until the measures for forest management reform outlined below are implemented and the necessary legislation and regulations are enacted.

2. Establish a Forest Reform Monitoring Committee, led by the FDA, with the participation and assistance of the Liberia Forest Initiative, composed of Liberian and international representatives, including civil society, to monitor forest management reform.

3. Charge the Forest Reform Monitoring Committee with monitoring the development and implementation of the measures prescribed as a condition precedent to the resumption of concession grants and allocations. These measures are designed to allow the resumption of timber harvesting in Liberia consistent with international standards and basic principles of accountability, transparency, and sustainability. The measures shall consist of completion of all of the following actions by the FDA and other appropriate agencies:

a. Identify appropriate land areas for establishing a concession system using land use planning methods;

b. Establish an appropriate chain of custody system that tracks logging operations from the point of enumeration to export;

c. Work with the international community to define an appropriate tax system (based on percentages of international timber prices) and equitable sharing of the benefits with local communities and institute that system;

d. Revise the concession contract to reflect legal requirements and mandated procedures, including without limitation the changes in laws, regulations, chain of custody requirements, and taxation procedures prescribed by these measures or otherwise necessary for forest management reform;

e. Develop and implement a transparent forest concession allocation system based on bidding, on community consultation and prior informed consent, and on a comprehensive debarment and suspension system that would include a debarment list of those who aided and abetted civil disturbances and a suspension list of those who defaulted on their financial obligations;

f. Establish procedures for investigating, crafting appropriate remedies, and taking legal action for financial and tax fraud, human rights abuses, economic sabotage, and violations of labor and other laws attendant upon misuse and mismanagement of the forest resources of Liberia;

g. Elaborate an Environmental Impact Assessment and sustainable forest management planning process and implement them for future concession allocations;

h. Evaluate possible options and criteria for the FDA to enter into a management contract;

i. Institutionalize the participation of communities and civil society in forest management in a transparent manner, including unlimited access to information, mandated public participation, and the right to bring citizens' suits against both public and private parties to redress violations of law; and

j. Conduct a comprehensive review of the forestry laws and regulations to identify on a priority basis what strengthening amendments and additions are needed to implement forest management reforms.

4. Propose legislation and pass regulations based on the review conducted consistent with all the above named points.

5. Issue an Executive Order(s) forthwith that adopts and executes these recommendations of the Forest Concession Review Committee in their entirety.

The Forest Concession Review Committee unanimously endorsed the Concession Review Recommendations. The United Nations Security Council acknowledges the review in Resolution 1607 (2005) and urges the NTGL "to implement the Forest Concession Review Committee's recommendations for reform, which would ensure transparency, accountability and sustainable forest management, while contributing towards the lifting of the embargo on timber set forth in paragraph 10 of resolution 1521 (2003)."

The FDA management has been working with local and international forestry partners to develop an implementation strategy and timeline which will facilitate the completion of the recommendations in a timely manner. A draft of this implementation strategy was submitted to Chairman Bryant during the Committee's presentation.

A copy of the Committee's report can be downloaded here: Zip file (486 KB: full report) Zip file (202 KB: executive summary).

September 2004: UN CIVPOL Law Enforcement Training

LFI supports training of 150 Forestry Development Authority employees. Law enforcement is a critically important aspect of the Forestry Development Authority's mandate. It is necessary to ensure biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of Liberia's forest resources. It is also essential to re-establish the rule of law and prevent conflict in rural areas where most of Liberia's civil war was fought.

Currently, the Forestry Development Authority has extremely limited capacity to perform these law enforcement activities, as 14 years of civil war have limited the opportunities for training and many key personnel have left the country.

The United Nations Civilian Police (CIVPOL), an international police force, has been training many different sectors of the Liberian government and their expertise and knowledge of the issues in Liberia is unparalleled. To help the Forestry Development Authority to build capacity in law enforcement, CIVPOL agreed to supply expert international law enforcement personnel to train all relevant staff in the basic principles of law enforcement. With financial support from the LFI, CIVPOL held a four-week training course in September 2004 to train 150 Forestry Development Authority employees in forest law enforcement.