Desk Study on the Environment in Liberia

A new chapter in the history of Liberia started when the peace agreement in Accra, Ghana, was signed in August 2003. The National Transitional Government of Liberia has been established, and the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is helping to reestablish the security in the country. The fighting in Liberia has not only had a devastating impact on its people but also on the country’s rich natural resources and biodiversity. In Liberia, as is the case in many other African countries, resource abundance or scarcity is all too often the catalyst for war and suffering. The Liberian people have been forced to pay a high price for living in a country rich in prized timber and mineral resources. In modern Africa, environment security and effective and fair resource governance are at the very heart of peacemaking and peacekeeping. The misuse of natural resources has not only been a source of conflict in Liberia and the wider region, but has also sustained it. Effective and strong management to promote the sustainable use of natural resources is central to preventing additional conflict in Liberia. For the long-suffering people of Liberia, many of whom have been displaced and separated from their families, this new era provides them with a chance for a better future.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the United Nations agency for the environment. I have been asked many times if in the post-conflict situation – like in Liberia today – it is too early to speak about environment and sustainable development. My experience
is that sustainable development cannot be achieved if one of the three key components of it – economic, social or environmental – is forgotten. In Liberia, the country’s growth is dependent on the management and use of its natural resources: timber, minerals, agriculture
and wildlife. Unfortunately, during the last 14 years of misery we have witnessed the woeful and unsustainable use of Liberia’s natural wealth to buy arms and support conflict. UNEP, as a part of the United Nations Development Group and its Needs Assessment process for Liberia, has managed the cross-cutting sector of environment. Working with United Nations colleagues, the government of Liberia and its agencies and with non-governmental organisations, UNEP has collated environmental background data, which is now published in this desk study. My sincere wish is that as soon as the security situation allows, the comprehensive environmental legislation already prepared by Liberia as well as recommendations of this study can be fully implemented.

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