Section 18.15 of the National Forest Reform Law (NFRL) states that the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) shall facilitate public access to a range of forest sector information. Regulation 108 Section 61 requires all information in the chain of custody system to be made public. The Community Rights Law Section 4.1 provides for transparency in management of community forestry funds and compliance with the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. These sector-specific provisions are backed by the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, and they are reinforced further by the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU), which in Annex IX specifies information to be routinely published through different methods or provided on request under the FOI Act.
Despite these commitments to public information, access to key documents and data on the forest sector has been restricted by a number of factors. The FDA received World Bank funding to set up a main information centre in Monrovia ('Info Shop') and supporting centres in four regional offices. The Info Shop was unofficially opened to the public in October 2011 in Monrovia, but at the time of this assessment it still lacked hard copies of most forest sector information set out in the NFRL, and no store of documents was available at its four regional offices. The Info Shop was not yet equipped with an internet connection and requests for information are conveyed to the FDA senior management, which responds inconsistently. Many documents are also not available of the FDA website; poor internet connectivity, overloaded network servers and limited training and skills of staff all restrict its capacity. In general, the FDA is still not proactive in disseminating information or responding to requests. NGOs, civil society organisations and community groups have filled this gap to an extent, but further work is necessary to establish their role and relationship with the FDA.
The VPA therefore comes at a critical time. In October 2012, SDI and Global Witness released a baseline assessment of the current public information available in relation to 52 types of documents and data specified in Annex IX (1). This revealed major gaps in information, which limit participation of civil society and communities and weaken decision-making on forest sector management. It recommends several measures to improve access to information.
(1) Sustainable Development Institute and Global Witness (2012) Liberia VPA Transparency Gap Assessment 2012. Available at http://www.foresttransparency.info/cms/file/574
|Title||a. An Act Adopting the National Forestry Reform Law, (Section 18.15) 2006;
b. Forestry Development Authority Regulation 108 on Chain of Custody (Section 61) 2007
c. Community Rights Law (Chapter 4, Section 4.1g) 2009
d. VPA Annex IX 2011
|Organisation||Forestry Development Authority|