Natural Resource Advocacy
¨ Transparency and Accountability
¨ Co-existence through participation
¨ Environmental protection including Large Volume Waste Management
Despite being amongst one of the poorest countries in Africa, Liberia has vast amount of natural resource reserved including diamond, timber, iron ore and gold. The country also exports rubber and other forest products. According to the government of Liberia, significant amount of oil reserves were discovered in earlier July 2012 (LEITI). Oil blocks have already been awarded to oil companies by the government for exploration but the production is yet to begin, making it favorable for civil society actors to develop mechanism in addressing some of the lapses intended to promote a vibrant extractive sector in Liberia.
However, the structure and performances of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) has been under serious criticism by both the citizens and the international community for bad governance. Unrealistically, the President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed her son Robert Sirleaf to head the board of NOCAL raising serious public outcry, which led to Robert Sirleaf resignation in 2014. Despite the existence of numerous civil society leaders and International Non-Governmental Organizations with expertise in oil exploration and mining, in June 2013, the president appointed her 17-year-old grandnephew, a college freshman Estrada Bernard, III in the US to come to Liberia to address the Liberia people on the issue of oil, gas prospects and challenges in Liberia causing the citizenry to lost confidence in the governance of the oil sector as well as the Ellen led Government. Just in the exploration era, and not the production, corruption and nepotism have engulfed the Liberian extractive sector causing more harm than good, which is a pure recipe for violent conflict. Leadership appointments to NOCAL and LEITI have never been transparent. The issue of ownership of oil companies, compliance to revenue payment, contract agreement, and corporate social benefits to communities are yet to be widely known to Liberian citizens.
Not only the accountability of government and companies, but also how to manage the realistic and unrealistic expectations of citizens concerning the extractive sector especially the oil is a huge task to address in order to avoid another future violent conflict.
Since the end of the Liberia civil conflict, the country has intensified the extraction of its minerals including timber, diamond, gold, and iron ore. There are also five oil companies currently carrying on exploration on the coast of Liberia. Additionally, there are large portions of land taking by plantation companies. Accountability and transparency on the use of public revenues from the extractive sector remains a challenge. Not only the majority of the Liberia citizens, but international organizations aiding post war Liberia during its economy recovery and post development process have continue to strongly criticized the government on the manner in which the affairs of the oil sector is being managed.
What is being done by RHRAP in addressing some of the identified problems?
RHRAP General Objective for its Natural Resource Education and Advocacy program is to contribute to an innovative and sustainable ways of collecting relevant and accurate data relating to the Liberia extractive industry in order to bridge accountability, transparency and trust gaps as well as support the rule of law, safe environment, inclusive planning and improved service delivery.
To this end, RHRAP is currently implementing the “Project Promoting Accountability in the Extractive Sector” with focus on the oil sector so as to advocate for accountability for the proper usage of oil revenues that will benefit not only the few, but the citizen at large. To this end, the program is monitoring and gathering relevant information on the oil sector intended to identify gaps and design strategies for demanding accountability from the government and companies and at the same time strengthen citizen’s participation in the process. Please read our quarterly newsletter “The Activists” on some contemporary issues relating to the oil sector.
To contribute towards peace building including conflict prevention as well as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in Liberia, the Rural Human Rights Activists Programme (RHRAP) using funding from the Australian Governments, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has carried out series of advocacy and community mobilizations against corruption, marginalization and disforestation. RHRAP’s program has established and trained three social structures each with 23 members representing community segments. These structures are named and styled as (Citizen Action Committee- CAC). RHRAP has provided series of trainings to enhance their (CACs) capacities for community advocacy on natural resource benefits, participation in extractive governance, and the management of their natural habitat (preservation of the ecosystem). Additionally, trainings were provided in the areas of conflict management, land grabbing by multinationals in the extractive sectors including agriculture.
Engagements are ongoing for the initiation of inter-generational equity program using revenues collected from the extractive sector. Over the years, RHRAP has had working collaboration with relevant government ministries and agencies especially the Ministry of Lands, Minds, and Energy, Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiatives (LEITI) amongst others in the development of policy such as the New Mining and Mineral Law of Liberia guiding the extractive sector of Liberia. The establishment of social structures (CACs) in extractive communities especially in Gbarpolu County are now actively involved with lots of work including the promotion of REDD activities at various levels. To this end, RHRAP is soliciting funding form donor institutions so as to expand its peace building and advocacy work within the extractive sector of Liberia focusing on accountability aimed at improving the lives of Liberians.
There are lots of environmental issues that are very urgent to address which include, emission, large volume waste as a result of mining iron ore, diamond, and gold where various chemicals are used in the processing of raw materials. On the issue of emission, traditional farming activities by indigenous residents of forest dependents remains issues to tackled. Each year, large acres of forestland are being cultivated where forest trees are cut down and burn for planting of rice and cassava. This is done on a yearly basis. Each year, indigenous farmers move to other forestlands, which caused lots of destructions to the environment including the destruction of the ecosystem. The burning of large acres of forestlands each year contributes to high air pollution in Liberia. Additionally, the bunging of charcoal for cooking is one of the high contributing factors to the destructions of the forest in Liberia. The plant and animal species are seriously under threats. RHRAP is also seeking funding for its environmental advocacy program focusing on environmental issues as a result of extractive operations in the Liberia.