Participants of a multi-stakeholder dialogue in Sinoe County, South East Liberia, have approved a joint declaration to create a green growth plan for the region. The commitment followed two days of lively participatory dialogue, where members of government, private sector and civil society voiced their priorities for environmental protection, sustainable economic growth and social inclusion. The dialogue was convened by IDH, together with local partners.
More than 100 participants took part, including the national government, private sector, civil society, local government, communities, and traditional leadership from across Sinoe. Local representatives came from nine different districts, representing youth, elders and women.
IDH brought the dialogue together through partners in the region, relying on both our strong partnership with the Liberian Ministry of Agriculture and the local government.
(You can get a flavor of the participatory dialogue sessions in the video above!)
Sinoe, unlike many other counties in Liberia, is undergoing significant social, economic and environmental changes. Palm oil and logging operations are increasing in the area. Meanwhile, the 2018 Land Rights Act formalizes customary land rights, allowing communities to enter into contracts with private sector for land and forest resources. This legal recognition and empowerment of customary land-owning communities have the potential to deliver sustainable development benefits including sustainable management of forest resources. At this same time, if managed poorly, it poses an inherent risk of large-scale resource degradation and/or destruction of forest.
This would not only have severe negative consequences for the environment, but more so for the communities that depend on the forest for a wide range of benefits.
The power of dialogue
In the past, there was a lack of coordination between government, investors, communities and NGO projects in the Sinoe county. In some cases, investors would arrive in areas where communities were living, under the impression that the land was available. In other cases, NGOs had begun projects of which the government is unaware.
The focus of IDH’s approach is thus to ensure that everyone is at the table to discuss what development looks like.
Multi-stakeholder dialogue provides such a platform, to jointly identify opportunities for maximizing the potential positive sustainable development benefits of the changes outlined above, as well as the associated risks.
As a result of the dialogue, a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder contact group was formed at Sinoe county level, to follow up on an agreed action plan. Next steps include convening this contact group at the local level, as well as a technical working group at the national level, to develop, adopt and implement a green growth compact (agreement) for Sinoe, and participatory land-use plans for selected districts.
The approach was praised by Ministry of Agriculture and other local government representatives as a necessary way forward.
This dialogue took place as part of IDH’s work in the South East Liberia landscape program.