Transparency and accountability are essential tools in ensuring sustainable management of forest resources, but inadequate attention by policy makers and government agencies to civil society demands for broader participation and free flow of information remains a critical barrier to improving forest governance in Liberia. On a more positive note, on-going civil society engagement with the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process has yielded some dividends. Notable progress was achieved by civil society and communities through direct representation on the VPA steering committee. However, limited support for information sharing by the Forestry Development Authority tends to undermine collaboration and participatory decision making. An apparent example is the slow progress made in providing information on Private Use Permits, which has the potential to derail the gains made in the forest sector so far.
The space currently occupied by civil society under the VPA framework can be harnessed for broader participation and transparency in the forest sector. For example, the participation of civil society organizations and local communities in its formulation and vetting, and the selection of the NGO Coalition for Liberia as the chair of the National Benefit Sharing Trust Board provides opportunities for civil society and community members to bring leadership and direction into the forest sector and ensure that benefits accrued by forest communities are used transparently and accountably. Increased involvement of civil society enhances the perception that community funds will be used to support community development initiatives guided by social inclusion and full participation. However, early signs from those communities receiving funds have revealed competing interests, which demand closer monitoring and better facilitation of the governance processes to ensure that funds benefit affected communities.