The EU analyzes VPA progress on legal timber imports with Liberia

Representatives of Liberia and the EU have met to review progress towards implementation of their Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which aims to ensure Liberia exports only legal timber products to the EU.

The Liberia-EU VPA Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) met for the 3rd time on 20-22 January in Monrovia. The JIC is the body established to oversee the implementation of the agreement.

The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) is under debate between Liberia and the EU. This agreement’s goal is to guarantee that Liberia exports only legal timber products to the EU, according to Front Page Africa (FPA). The meeting took place in Monrovia on 20-22 of January and the Liberia-EU VPA Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) met for the third time as to take better notice on the implementation of the agreement.

Sister Mary Laurene Browne, Chair of the Board of Liberia’s Forest Development Authority (FDA) and Co-Chair of the JIC stated that she was optimistic by the progress made in the implementation of this agreement since their last meeting.

“We are making up for momentum lost during the Ebola crisis. This would not have been possible without the strong support and commitment from the Government of Liberia and forest-sector stakeholders to the implementation of this agreement. Together we are working to create a system to ensure the legality of timber produced in Liberia. In doing so, we are setting an example for other sectors in the sustainable management of Liberia's natural resources,” Browne added.

Tiina Intelmann, European Union Ambassador to Liberia, said that “the forestry sector is of enormous importance for Liberia.”

Only last year, the forestry sector brought approximately US$8 million in tax revenue, creating jobs and opportunities for the economy.

“The VPA is about the European Union and Liberia engaging on equal terms to promote mutual interests and transparency," Intelmann added.

JIC discussed about the assurance system of the progress Liberia makes on timber legality, especially with the new Liberia Verification Department and software called LiberTrace, that will be useful to store data used to track timber as to verify its legality.  Also, JIC debated about the government ministers and agencies, alongside with the non-governmental stakeholders, the improvement of the regulatory framework and the priorities of the agreement for 2016.

Harrison Karnwea, Managing Director of FDA, reported that “the forest sector is arguably the most open of all of Liberia's government ministries, agencies and commissions.”

He added that they have a multi-stakeholder body which includes government representatives, as the people who depend on forests know about the latest changes.

EU and Liberia started the VPA between 2009 and 2011. The EU ratified the VPA in 2012 and Liberia ratified it in 2013. The commitments made in the agreement are now being implemented. Liberia commits to develop an assurance system for timber legality and to import only FLEGT-licensed timber to the EU.



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