Liberia Forest and Human Rights Campaign
Liberia hosts the last two significant blocks of the remaining closed canopy tropical rainforest within what is known as the upper Guinea forests of West Africa, which spans Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The forest has shrunk to an estimated 12.7% of its original size – and almost 45% of this remaining forest is in Liberia.
Liberia’s rainforest, recognised as a global biodiversity hotspot, is under great pressure, mainly from industrial logging. Areas within almost every national forest reserve and proposed national park have been granted as concessions to logging companies, while those not granted are nonetheless being encroached upon by various companies.
Biodiversity is threatened not only because of the destruction of forest through logging, but also because the logging process has effectively separated the northern and south eastern portions of the forest, thus affecting their ecological integrity. There is also an enormous impact on indigenous rural communities in Liberia, which depend on the land and the forest for their livelihood – food, clean water, medicinal plants, construction materials etc. Their cultural and spiritual practices are so dependent on the forest that without it their survival and growth would be severely threatened. The prevailing level of poverty in these communities is a clear indication of what is to come if nothing is done to check the current trend of forest exploitation.
Silas Siakor and his colleagues at Save My Future Foundation (SAMFU) are coordinating the Liberian Forest and Human Rights Campaign. Its goal is to protect the rainforest, promote respect for the individual and collective rights of indigenous people, working closely with them towards this end. Silas and his team will train local forest monitors to investigate and document activities of multinationals, especially those relating to human and environmental rights abuses, and will work with the communities to campaign against multinationals by organising public protests and launching legal actions.
Silas believes it is vital to document evidence of destructive logging practices, environmental abuses and the associated human rights abuses so as to stimulate public debate on these issues and enhance local and international understanding of the gravity and impact of deforestation. A series of grassroots activities including public debate, legal actions, public protests etc will serve to build confidence in local people – that contrary to widely held belief, they have the power to influence and/or direct decisions and policies that affect their livelihood. Policy makers, human rights organizations, and the public will be targeted and lobbied to support these activities.
Silas’s work is beginning to bear fruit. The calls for reforms in the Liberian forestry sector to ensure sustainable management of the Liberian forest has gained momentum within Liberia and abroad, and even forestry officials working within the sector now agree that the industry needs reforms if they are to function as professionals.
FOREST COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS ALL LIBERIAN FOREST CONCESSIONS BE REVOKED
June 28th 2005
The Forest Concession Review Committee has recommended that all exisiting forest concession and utilisation agreements in Liberia be revoked. The committee also recommended the establishment of a committee, with NGO representation, to oversee and monitor implementation of wide ranging reform measures in the forest sector. The UNSC has expressed support for these recommendations and urged the government to implement them.
SILAS SIAKOR WINS GOLDMAN ENVIRONMENTAL PRIZE!
In 2002, Silas left SAMFU to become Director of The Sustainable Development Institute – working to transform the decision-making process of Liberia’s natural resources use and promote equity. We are delighted to announce Silas’ leadership of SDI has been recognised by the Goldman Environmental Prize!
Click here to visit the Goldman website.
You can read an interview with Silas following winning the Goldman Prize on the website of Illegal Logging, click here.