In no uncertain term and without biting his tongue, the tough-talking Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), C. Mike Doryen has categorically sounded another caveat to all VPA implementing partners particularly the SGS to practicalize its obligation in the truest sense of the word to squarely fit government’s much proclaimed pro-poor agenda.
Mr. Doryen said at no time will his administration allow any partnership that tends to only best suit donors or partners’ interests in the name of building and strengthening FDA capacity without tangible outcome to benefit the forest sector.
Mr. Doryen sounded the caveat on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at the Monrovia City Hall while serving as one of the co-chairs at the Technical Session of the 6th Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) meeting of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) signed between the Government of Liberia and the European Union in 2012 and subsequently ratified in 2013.
The VPA is a trade agreement which aims to ensure that Liberia’s timbers are legally verified before being exported to the European market. The agreement calls for the EU to build the capacity of the FDA through the Society Generale Surveillance (SGS) which is therefore responsible to build the capacity of the Legality Verification Department (LVD) in every expected measurement as per the Agreement before handing over the operation.
Although the SGS has been partnering with FDA for nearly twelve years there appears no measurable trace of capacity building program that could equip the Liberian side to independently perform the task beyond the existence of the SGS.
In light of this, the FDA boss stressed that it was highly unspeakable and regrettable that after nearly a decade of operations in Liberia partnering with FDA, the capacity building obligation that should benefit the LVD staff remains undefined, something he said needs to be quickly cross-checked and possibly reversed to suit the aims and objective of the government’s pro-poor agenda that is being presidentially trumpeted across the land.
He said FDA’s commitment to the implementation of the pro-poor agenda cannot and will not be compromised in any form or manner. He strongly vowed that his administration will remain an unchanged agent of the truth in protecting and promoting internationally endorsed forest governance practices consistent with the doctrine of sustainable management of the Liberian forest to benefit present and future generations.
He also called for the restoration of FDA autonomous power which was deleted or narrowed to semi-autonomy level during the 2006 National Forestry reform process, something he said has and continues to stall the management dream and vision. He noted that with the volume of work facing the entity in the new dispensation the need to swiftly restore FDA’s lost autonomy cannot be overemphasized especially when FDA was faced with the equal implementation of the 3Cs approach in forest government-conservation, commercial and community forestry program.
“We attach a premium to all three with no one taking prominent over the other,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the EU and the Liberian Government have pledged to keep the torch of the VPA burning under the theme “trade not aid.” Making remarks during the concluding session of the meeting on Thursday June 14 at the Monrovia City Hall FDA Board Chair Harrison S. Karnwea, sr. said it was a good thing for Liberia’s timber to be processed from legal source and appreciated the new management of the FDA for its tireless efforts in building a vibrant framework for growth and development.
He acknowledged the milestone in the life of the VPA and admired Liberia’s conservation dream in the sub-region which has made her a truly trade blazer as far as conservation is concerned.
For her part EU Ambassador to Liberia He’le’ne Carve’ thanked the VPA stakeholders for the progress made thus far and said the EU was eager in seeing the VPA succeed in the interest of the pro-poor agenda of the government.
The EU and the Liberian government are expected to sign the Aid Memoire which embodies the new policy framework by which the VPA is to be governed as soon as all technical points and mutual concerns raised by both parties during the technical session are satisfied.