Political and administrative authority has, from the Liberian Republic’s inception, been concentrated in the capital. As the preamble to the National Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance (“Decentralization Policy”) points out, “since 1847 and throughout the history of Liberia, governance and public administration have remained highly centralized in Monrovia and controlled mainly by institutions and structures of the central state, which have not allowed adequate legal opportunities for the establishment of a system of participatory governance.” The Government of Liberia’s (GoL) Decentralization Policy, which has now been converted into the Draft Local Government Act of 2013 (LGA), aims to address this problem by devolving authority over a range of issues and services to the fifteen counties and other subordinate administrative units.
County Administrations will have new powers to raise their own revenue, plan and implement development projects, and manage natural resources, all of which will affect community forestry (CF). The potential for disruption to the CF program is high, as it was established relatively recently – the Community Rights Law with Respect to Forest Lands (CRL) was passed in 2009, while the implementing regulations (“CRL Regulations”), which are currently being reworked, were promulgated in 2011 – and is still being programmatically developed. At the same time, the decentralization process could greatly benefit CF because local government is, by definition, closer, which means it is potentially more accessible, responsive, and accountable. This policy brief will look at how CF will likely be impacted by the passage of the LGA, and specifically how the Departments of Land, Environment and Natural Resource Management, proposed therein, will need to be considered by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).