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Mainstreaming Natural Resource Governance in Liberia

A Liberian specialist in Natural Resource Governance Mr. Konah Karmo has identified a number of gaps within the current legal framework which need to be bridged in order for Liberia to achieve what he calls “impact-driven resource governance process”. Mr. Karmo noted that “the current legal and certain fundamentals must evolve to allow inclusive dialogue and enhance consultations with citizens in the granting of concessions and other rights within the natural resource sector”.

Mr. Karmo’s remarks were part of his presentation at the Governance Commission’s April 7, 2016 Policy Dialogue on Mainstreaming Natural Resource Governance: the need for effective, transparent and accountable Management of natural resources held at the Bella Casa Hotel in Sinkor. Mr. Karmo, head of Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (LEITI) Secretariat served as one of two Presenters at the Dialogue.  He pointed out that while government has made commendable efforts to improve natural resource governance in Liberia, the “contradictions of relevant Liberian laws” pose a challenge to a unified approach to addressing effective governance process in the natural resource sector.

Mr. Karmo maintained that the lack of harmonization of relevant Liberian laws with sub-regional standards to address current issues of illicit cross border mining activities have resulted to loss of needed revenues, and deprivation of local communities of trade and commerce. He identified challenges to natural resource governance in Liberia to include:

“weak legal environment; weak or non-enforcement of existing laws, regulations, policies, and agreements; lack of citizens involvement in decision making process relative to allocation of rights within the natural resource sector, especially affected communities; absence of or failure to implement a proper monitoring and evaluation mechanism; and the lack of proper coordination among entities to present a common front to contending issues”.

In conclusion, Mr. Karmo put forth 7 recommendations to government including:

  1. That government should harmonize relevant Liberian laws taking into consideration regional standards to curb illicit cross-border activities/mining, smuggling of precious minerals;
  2. Review existing laws to remove contradictions and inconsistencies;
  3. Formulate legal framework on local content policy that will mainstream and institutionalize participation of Liberian citizens in investment and other trade opportunities in natural resource sector;
  4. Formulate a policy framework for the establishment and improvement of mechanisms for community representation at local level to discuss governance issues and articulates citizens engagement strategy;
  5. Undertake sustained awareness campaigns to promote better understanding of governance as it relates to natural resource management among communities, officials and partners;
  6. Review and revise current policy measures on accessing and managing social development funds in order to give greater stake to affected rural communities to identify, implement, and monitor projects to ensure equitable use of said funds provided by extractive investors;
  7. Leverage and build upon the platform of LEITI to sustain the inclusive engagement mechanism which brings diverse people and stakeholders together.

The Dialogue’s second presenter was another Natural Resource Governance specialist Dr. Ali Kaba. He spoke on Natural Resource Governance: Opportunities and Challenges.

Like Mr. Karmo, Dr. Kaba observed that Liberia’s natural resources and the policy formation around them are based on public assumptions and what he described as “short term objectives”. These assumptions include:

 “If you can centralize our resources in the hands of government, these are things you can get from it. If you have oil in Nimba, you can take some of that money and provide services to people in Grand Kru. Those people that live near these resources don’t have the necessary capacity to efficiently manage and negotiate contracts therefore, to increase the effectiveness and to get more value, government should manage it”.

Dr. Kaba noted as challenges Liberia’s poor institutional arrangements, weak regulatory enforcement regime, poor profit sharing mechanism, political will, and corruption. He said Liberia needs to establish and empower government institutions to manage the mining and forestry sectors to adequately address demands/inquiries and benefits as they relate to these sectors. He mentioned the need for a well thought out structured framework to guide, regulate, outline, monitor and evaluate government’s responsibilities, revenue collections, and residents’ benefits to minerals found beneath communal and/or private/public land, concession agreements, and plantations related policies in Liberia.

Dr. Kaba stressed Liberia’s prowess in crafting good laws but reluctance in their implementation, therefore urging government to put in place proper monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that assure proper implementation, monitoring, and protection of our laws, country and people’s interests. He recommended the proper management of Liberia’s natural resources through the re-visitation and harmonization of our laws on natural resource management to engender transparency and integrity in the industry; and taking advantage of the reform process to develop policies that support and protect citizen’s rights, protection and participation in the process.

GC’s Chairman Dr. Amos Sawyer gave the vote of thanks paying particular honor to the African Development Bank for its continuous support to the Commission’s effort to providing space, bringing stakeholders together, and making it possible to hold such discussions and policy dialogues on pertinent contentious issues. He equally thanked all discussants for their participation in the dialogue.

Grand Bassa County Senator Jonathan Kaipay and Representative Gabriel Smith both attended the policy Dialogue, commended GC for holding such debates and promised to serve as champions of policy recommendations coming out of the discussions.  

 

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