In continuation of efforts aimed at promoting peace and preventing conflict in concession affected communities across Liberia, the National Bureau of Concession (NBC) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has established a multi stakeholder’s platform (MSP) in Grand Kru County.
Citizens of affected communities in concession areas in the County, comprising youth, women, chiefs, and representatives of Civil Society Organizations Tuesday, June 26, established the ‘Concession Communities’ Development and Advocacy Committee (CoCoDAC) to help promote, maintain and enhance peace in their communities and the county at large.
The establishment followed a meeting supported and coordinated by a UNDP project called “Strengthening Conflict Prevention through Establishment of Multi-Stakeholder Platforms and Improved Alternative Livelihoods in Concession Areas, in collaboration with the National Bureau of Concession (NBC).
In a resolution read by the Committee’s Secretary- General Michael N. Collins, the citizens agreed to promote peace, unity and development in their respective communities through constructive engagements with the company, government and other partners.
“This Committee will, in addition to the promotion of peace in the communities; mobilize financial and material resources internally and externally for the support of our educational, agricultural, health and income generating programs as well as securing loans for its activities,” read Collins.
The project, funded by the Peacebuilding Fund seeks to mediate conflicts and promote peaceful coexistence in concession areas in Liberia.
In 2010, Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) obtained a 65-year concessionary rights to develop 220,000 ha for oil palm in southeast Liberia, including Grand Kru County. Though signed in 2008 and commenced in 2010, the 65 years agreement could be extended for another 33 years.
The Concession Agreement states that land within concession areas “shall be free from encumbrances at the date of handover of such lands.”
Like other concession companies in Liberia, since the signing of the 65-year concession agreement between the government and the GVL in 2008, its relationship with the community has been fragile with sparks of violence in some instances.
Community members have claimed rightful ownership of the land either through traditional land-use rights, or through acts of law and title deeds.
With a population of over 57,000 and measuring 3,895 square kilometers (1,504 sq. mi.), Grand Kru is considered one of the ‘least developed’ counties in southeastern Liberia.
Grand Kru County Superintendent Doris N. Ylatun said the establishment of the MSP to promote peace and prevent conflict was a laudable and welcoming venture. Madam Ylatun pledged support to the implementation of the project in the county.
Roosevelt Wleah is GVL Manager for Sustainability. He also promised to work with the NBC, UNDP and the community through the newly established organization for the implementation of the project and the smooth operations of GVL in the county.
Also speaking, NBC Deputy Director General Ramses T. Kumbuyah said the NBC remains concern about the effort of community engagement for sustainable peace, human and food security.
“The government of Liberia attaches much interest to the concession sector which contributes to national social economic development of the country” Kumbuyah said.
According to him, statistics available at the NBC show that there are ten (10) agriculture concession companies operating currently in Liberia, including GVL, the Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC), Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO), Sime Darby Plantation, Firestone Liberia among others”
Mr. Kumbuyah stated that agriculture concessions contribute approximately to 10,000 jobs and provides basic social services to communities and the country.
The NBC Deputy Director General said despite these, the work of these companies in the different communities have been marred by disagreements and conflicts for different reasons.
He said to prevent these, the NBC and the UNDP through the “Strengthening Conflict Prevention through Establishment of Multi-Stakeholder Platforms and Improved Alternative Livelihoods in Concession Areas, have decided to work with concessionaires and affected communities to find amicable solutions aimed at preventing conflicts in concession areas.
This project is aimed at improving concession management, effective mitigation systems, monitoring, prevention, policy reforms and improve sources of livelihoods in project- related concession areas.
The current project builds upon the last one that helped streghten national reconciliation through improved understanding of conflict drivers in concession areas and the establishment of multi-stakeholder dialogue platforms (MSPs) in three hotspot concession areas (Maryland, Nimba, and Sinoe counties) respectively.
The MSPs bring together project affected communities (PACs), relevant government entities, civil society, development partners and concessionaires to work through specific concerns arising from the operations of concession companies and frame collective agendas.
In this context, MSPs are also expected to be established in Bomi County (SDL), Maryland County (Cavalla Rubber Corporation-CRC), Grand Kru (Golden Veroleum-GVL) and Grand Bassa (Equatorial Palm Oil/Liberia Agricultural Corporation).