By Grace Q. Bryant
The Government of Liberia in partnership with the Government of Sweden along with the United Nations Development Program has officially launched the Liberia’s Stockholm +50 National Consultation.
The launch organized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was held yesterday at the Monrovia City Hall under the theme: ‘A healthy planet for the prosperity of all; our responsibility our opportunity.’
The EPA’s Executive Director, Wilson Tarpeh, thanked the development partners that are working with the Agency to strike a balance between environment and development for the attainment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
According to the EPA boss, one of the major achievements at UNEA 5.2 was the endorsement by the world ministers of environment on banning the usage of single plastic which is causing major pollution in the environment.
He explained that prior to the Stockholm meeting, in 1972 Liberia was involved heavily in the extraction of its natural resources for economic development with little consideration on environmental impact assessment.
Tarpeh recounted that two major activities that heavily impacted the environment prior to that meeting were the cultivation of almost one million acres of land in Margibi County by Harvey S. Firestone for rubber production (1926) and the extraction of iron ore thus leading to the establishment of four major mining activities in the country, namely: Liberia American Swedish Mining Company (LAMCO 1955), Bong Mining Company (1958), Liberia Mining Company (1951) and National Iron Ore Company (1961).
“We are still struggling to address those residual impacts through the enactment of laws, development of regulations and standards to avoid reoccurrence in our quest for economic development,” he expressed.
He revealed that the second major environmental issue that occurred in Liberia was from December 1990 to August 2003 and explained that, that was the major period of Liberia’s civil conflict which led to the loss of thousands of lives and the wanton destruction of the country’s natural resources with no reference to the protection and management of the environment.
EPA boss maintained that in December 2003, the Environmental Protection of Agency came into existence as a government agency responsible to protect and manage the environment of Liberia and to ensure a clean and healthy environment.
However, he stated that prior to the coming of the EPA, environmental issues were addressed from a fragmental approach thereby involving sectorial line ministries and agencies.
He said the birth came out as an offshoot of the civil conflict when citizens of the country requested the Government of Liberia in 1998 at the First Post War National Conference to establish an institution to govern environmental issues in the country as a result of high level of destruction of the natural resources and pollution of water bodies that happened during the crisis.
According to him, the EPA will lead an inclusive national engagement leaving no one behind taking into consideration the vulnerable groups which include women, children, elderly as well as the physical challenge people.
“The EPA remains resolute and robust in the protection and management of the environment and looks forward to have a positive outcome in Stockholm,” he added.
Foreign Affairs Minister Maxwell S. Kemayah disclosed that government is looking forward to strengthening the collaboration and partnership with the Government and people of Sweden to give added impetus aimed at ensuring the strengthening and implementation of policies geared towards assisting young people to become more useful in contributing to national development and growth.
“We wish to reaffirm the unwavering commitment of President Weah and the Government of Liberia to the empowerment, growth and development of the young people of Liberia; hence, promoting policies that will continue to create an enabling and friendly environment; aimed at bringing out the positive and full potential in our young people who are the future of our country; being cognizant of the reality that the future is hinged on the preparation we make for it today,” he added.
Minister Kemayah urged that the government will maintain its responsibility by ensuring that the current generation and posterity will benefit from the natural resources of Liberia.
According to him, Sweden and Liberia have enjoyed a long, tested and cordial relations and bilateral cooperation, based on mutual respect for fundamental human rights, democracy, friendship and universal peace and security.
“As a mark of commitment to our relations, Sweden contributed a mechanized rifle company of 240 personnel and civilian police to the United Nations Peace Keeping Operations at the time of the United Nations Mission in Liberia – UNMIL,” he recalled.
He further said, “Let me assure you that the Government of President Weah is determined to leave no stone unturned in its ongoing endeavors in dealing with violence, crimes and corruption.”
“This Government has a zero-tolerance on sexual and gender-based violence. We pledge to uphold and protect fundamental rights, most especially, those of women and young girls to fulfill their potential with pride, dignity and respect in a safe and peaceful environment,” he emphasized.
Minister Keyamah revealed that despite these challenges, Liberia remains a committed party and partner to the global cause for protecting the planet.
Liberia is currently a party to at least 10 multilateral environmental agreements, which include the Three Rio Conventions; namely: The Convention on Biological Diversity; The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Liberia remains a net carbon sink, with approximately 6.6 million hectares of forest, which represents 69% of its land mass with a commitment to put 30% of this under protection and these efforts represent a significant commitment for a Least Developed Country like Liberia with almost zero contribution to global emissions.
Meanwhile, the State Secretary to the Minister for International Development Cooperation, Jenny Ohlsson, noted that the global community is facing climate and nature crisis, adding, “This is not speculation; it is science and evidence.”
“We also know that environmental multilateralism works to fight a challenge that crosses national borders and we must adopt approaches that are fit for purpose,” Madam Ohlsson explained.
She stated further that immediate action for the climate and the environment will contribute to a better future for all of on a healthier planet, therefore preventing pollution, tackling climate change, restoring ecosystem and reversing biodiversity loss are opportunities to improve the quality of life for billions of people and to safeguard the common heritage and the wellbeing of coming generations.
The Ambassador of Ghana to Liberia , Kwabena Okubi-Appiah, said the aim of Stockholm +50 is a galvanized ideas from all stakeholders in Liberia which will be presented as the country’s input through working paper for United National high level meeting to be held in Sweden in June 2022.
“As living beings on this planet, we all aspire to live in a healthy environment and a healthy planet is a foundation that will guarantee our survival,” she concluded.
GoL, Partners Launch Stockholm
+50 National Consultations
By Grace Q. Bryant