Protecting Forests in Liberia

Kids on beach in Liberia
Liberia, post civil war.
Photo: Jerome Verdier, Green Advocates

Liberia is richly endowed with tropical rainforests, iron ore, diamonds, and gold. The abusive exploitation of these natural resources helped fuel 15 years of civil war. As part of the recovery effort, the UN Security Council had banned the import of timber from Liberia. ELAW partner Alfred Brownell, founder of Green Advocates in Monrovia, says: "Existing laws were confusing, conflicting, overlapping, or economically driven. Citizens and indigenous peoples had no rights to challenge government actions and tribal lands were deeded out to timber concessions." ELAW worked with Alfred and his colleagues to draft Liberia`s first framework environmental law, which passed in 2003. More recently, ELAW helped Green Advocates participate in drafting the Liberian Forestry Reform Bill and submitted formal comments. ELAW partners around the world reviewed and commented on the draft while Green Advocates held workshops to help communities participate in the drafting process. On September 19, 2006, Alfred wrote to ELAW partners around the world:

"After a lengthy and sometime emotional debate, the Liberian Forestry Reform Bill was yesterday evening passed into law. ... It was a difficult and enduring fight ensuring that the bill pass unadulterated. I mince no words when I say it was tough. The timber lobbyist fought to the dying minutes. We were no match for their money. But we gave them a good run for their money with our passion and commitment. In the dying minutes they became desperate, issuing threats. The head of the timber conglomerate called me on my cell phone and for more than three hours rained insults and threats. ... Even the Government crumbled under pressure from the timber lobby and wanted to water down the law. We resisted that atttempt. I volunteered time off from my office to assist the head of the forest agency to explain the proposed law to the lawmakers... Many special thanks to amigos, especially to Jen and the ELAW U.S. staff. Once more we claim victory! "
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ELAW partner Alfred Brownell, founder of Green Advocates, reports on drafting the Liberian Forestry Reform Bill and the battle to pass it into law.