Representatives of the Community Forestry Development Committees or CFDCs and a Cross-Section of members of the National Benefit Sharing Trust Board have presented a joint position statement on the Transfer of Community Share of Land Rental Fees to the 53rd National Legislature of Liberia, indicating among other things, that the meaningful Community participation in forest governance is currently under threat, in spite of the National Forestry Reform Law of Liberia passed in 2006.Reading the position statement over the weekend at the National Legislature, a representative of the CFDCs Matthew Walleysaid, affected Communities within logging concession areas have been denied entitlement to their 30 percent share of the Land Rental Fees which logging companies have paid to the Liberian Government. They Community Forestry Development Committees statement said, logging companies are not fulfilling most of the terms agreed in the Social Agreements signed with affected communities.
The community people told the Lawmakers that up to date, government has not fully collected and disbursed the thirty percent share of the Land Rental Fees that has been allotted to affected forest communities. The CFDCs reminded government in their position statement that failure on the part of logging companies to pay the annual Land Rental Fees is a breach of the contract, which they say is sufficient grounds for the termination of the contracts with the companies and that failure of the government to fully collect and disburse the thirty percent fees in a timely and transparent manner is also a violation of the 2006 law. The forest people’s statement said they have witnessed repeated disappointment, the government and logging companies continued violation of the forest law in total disregard for the rights of communities where logging concessions have been allocated. The CFDCs position statement on Friday revealed that Forest Management Contract or FMC and Timber Sale Contract holders jointly are indebted to government for area fees in the amount of Ten Million United States since 2009 to 2012, a clear indication of the failure of government to fully collect annual Area Fees as required by law, thus putting the dream of forest reform in jeopardy.
The Community Forestry Development Committees and National Budget Trust Board joint position statement is appealing to Civil Society Organizations, including the Sustainable Development Institute, SDI in the country to continue to put pressure of the government, using all legal means to ensure that government releases the thirty percent Land Rental Fees and to also ensure that all other benefits and terms of the social agreement are given to the affected communities throughout the country in keeping with the forest law. Mr. Walley in the statement appealed to Civil Society Groups to provide financial and technical training through workshops and seminars to CFDCs to remain actively engage with the government of Liberia for fruitful results into their problems. The statement is asking CSOs to also help CFDCs as a last result, in their process of arbitration if the government refuses to pay the land rental fees. Both the June 27 Monrovia and the September 18 and 19 Margibi Conferences were facilitated and sponsored by the pro-forest rights and advocacy group, Sustainable Development Institute or SDI. The CFDCs and NBSTB joint position statement was received by the House Committee Chairman of Investment and Concession Representative Moses Kollie of Lofa County.
The joint statement calls of the Lawmakers to summon authorities of the Ministry of Finance and Forestry Development Authority and the Central Bank of Liberia to instruct them to transfer immediately the community share of the land rental fees in the accounts of the NBSTB and also calls on the Lawmakers to prevail on the FDA to do due diligence on existing and future logging concessionaires to ensure they have the technical and financial capacity to execute their contract.
At the same time the CFDCs and NBSTB joint statement is calling on the Forestry Development Authority, FDA as the forest regulatory institution of government to demand the Ministry of Finance and the Central of Liberia to respect the forest laws which addresses the community share for forest revenues, to increase efforts to ensure that communities receive their 30 percent share of the land rental fees and asked the FDA to close down all logging companies who have failed to pay their land rental fees and to revoke their licenses of delinquent companies.