September 29, 2014
In return for $150 million in development aid from Norway, Liberia has agreed to stop cutting down its trees by 2020. The agreement was one of the most significant to come out of the UN Climate Summit, which took place in New York earlier this month.
“This partnership holds promise not only for the forest and climate; but for forest communities that have been marginalized for generations,” said 2006 Goldman Prize winner from Liberia, Silas Siakor.
The BBC article, “Liberia signs ‘transformational’ deal to stem deforestation,” cites the Ebola crisis as one of the main reasons Liberia was targeted for the deal, amid fears that the already poor country would ramp up illegal logging for desperately needed cash.
The article also highlights the connection between deforestation and the spread of Ebola: “Some researchers have connected the current outbreak of Ebola with the widespread destruction of the forests, bringing people into contact with natural reservoirs of the virus.”
In early September, Siakor, a longtime anti-deforestation activist, co-authored an op-ed article for the New York Times, in which he acknowledged the severe secondary problems stemming from the Ebola outbreak and appealed to world leaders to take urgent action:
“The problems facing the country go beyond the virus itself: Liberia must now also manage an array of secondary crises that have metastasized in the wake of the Ebola outbreak. As medical facilities close due to fears of contamination, many people have become ill or have died from easily preventable and treatable diseases like malaria and diarrhea. The country imports at least half of its staple consumables; the suspension of many international flights to Liberia has only increased food insecurity. With prices rising and basic provisions dwindling fast, an uptick in refugees trying to escape across borders is inevitable.”
According to the agreement between Norway and Liberia, no new logging concessions shall be granted until all current ones are reviewed by an independent body, and 30% of Liberia’s forests must be granted protected status by 2020. The Norwegian funds will assist with capacity building to train Liberian communities to monitor forests, an activity for which they will receive direct payment.
“The partnership’s commitment to respecting and protecting community’s rights with respect to forests is laudable,” Siakor said.