Liberia and the European Union (EU) initialled a Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) in May 2011. The European Union Parliament ratified the Agreement in April 2012, but the Liberian Government had not yet ratified it at the time of this assessment (although it was expected to do so).
The VPA provides a legal framework aimed at ensuring that exports of timber products from Liberia to the EU have been legally produced. It provides a way for Liberia to strengthen its forest governance and address problems associated with illegal logging. A pre-Joint Implementation Committee meeting was held in March 2012, which includes a timetable with key milestones for setting up a legality verification system so it can become operational in 2013. What remains to be seen is whether implementation of the VPA will strengthen institutional capacity of the authorities and improve compliance with forest laws and regulations, as well as firmly establish the rule of law so that it delivers benefits to all stakeholders, especially rural communities. Political will from the government of Liberia and support from the EU will be critical to effective implementation. Civil society made an important contribution to the negotiations and will need to continue ensuring that communities are able to participate.
While the VPA presents an important opportunity to improve forest governance, there were signs in 2012 that it had already been seriously undermined by the approval of extensive Private Use Permits (PUPs), largely on communal lands, many of which are illegal. The guidance in the VPA for verifying legality of PUPs timber is weak, since it only requires valid deeds and written permission of private land owners. There is a risk that illegal timber from PUPs will compromise EU timber regulations when they also come into effect in March 2013.
|Title||FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement between Liberia and European Union|
|Organisation||a. Forestry Development Authority, VPA Secretariat
b. European Commission
|Date||a. May 9, 2011 (initialled)
b. April 19, 2012 (EU Parliament approved)