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Gbapa Consensus

Decisions made at the 5th Bi-Annual National Meeting of the Heads of Member Organizations of the Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD)

Gbapa, Nimba, 13-15 December 2013

Program + Timetable

Gbapa Consensus

Whereas, we gathered in Gbapa, Nimba County, from 13-15 December 2013, for the 5th Bi-Annual Meeting of the Heads of Member Organizations, Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD);

Thankful to the peace-loving people of Gbapa Town, the Nimba Advocates for the Environment, Economic Empowerment and Natural Resources Rights (NAEERR) for facilitating the 5th Bi-Annual Meeting of the Alliance for Rural Democracy including turning over their homes, meeting hall, kitchens (to accommodate the delegates) and for deploying the entire community to lead the mobilization efforts, the preparation of food and heating of water for the delegates;

Greatly Motivated to build on the consensus and progress made at previous ARD Bi-Annual Meetings including achieving the full and effective implementation of the forward-looking Strategies for the advancement of the Alliance and Liberia in the Zwedru Protocol, Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, in November 2010; in the Gbehzohn Declaration, Buchanan, Grand Bassa County in May 2011 and in the Kon Town Decision, Grand Cape Mount County, in September 2012;

Deeply saddened by the devastating impact of climate change on the lives of ordinary farmers across Liberia including the dying of crops, the abandonment of farms due to heavy rainfall, the reduction of fallow system due to scarcity of farmlands, the pains associated with crop rotation or choices of crops to plant due to abrupt shift in weather patterns, the change of diet for many community members and how these traditional experiences have never informed national planning on climate change mitigation and adaption;

Ashamed that despite years of persistent public outcry, the 53rd National Legislature, through the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honorable Alex Tyler, has finally admitted that Liberians in rural parts of the country are not feeling the impact of the national Government in terms of public service delivery;

Noting the progressive outlook of the Draft Petroleum Law of Liberia with considerations for “citizen participation”, “beneficial ownership” and the local ownership requirement but remaining fearful that in the absence of adequate public consultations and safeguards these provisions could be breeding grounds for future controversies overflow of petroleum revenues and corruption when benefits are concentrated in the hands of an elite few at the expense of the general population;  

Deeply troubled by the lack of conducive working and living environment across several of the mining, logging and agricultural concessions including the lack of safety gears, discrimination in available treatment for workers performing the same task, unexplained reports of death among workers, the use of tractors to transport workers and living quarters that violate standards for health and sanitation in housing in Liberia;

Mindful of the voices of all historically, under-represented communities including women everywhere and in particular women managing small-medium enterprises (SMEs) such as charcoal production, back-yard gardens, rock-crushing and mining;

Disappointed that in sectors where women employment is possible such as the agricultural concessions, etc., the approach has never considered that many indigenous peoples assign different job titles, such as feminine and masculine, to the extraction of different natural resources—aged, breast-feeding, recovery from surgery where manual labor has been suspended until recuperation is successful, etc;

Greatly Concerned about the brewing tension arising from the boundary dispute between Bomi and Gbarpolu Counties and the delays in undertaking further investigations (as may be necessary) to address all and additional concerns of the parties or the implementation of the recommendations from the existing report prepared by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Administrative Boundaries in 2011;

Ashamed that slum and squatter communities are finding it difficult to own property or prove their legal status in urban centers across Liberia as they lack the requisite papers and that without efforts by the Liberian state to help them secure property rights, they risk being completely driven from the cities or forced to leave their shelters at any time and without any serious compensation;

Disappointed that in the name of development (mainly based on individual investments in business houses) slum and squatter communities are experiencing increased threats, raids, demolitions and displacement from policy makers who took oath to protect them and that this one-sided approach has led to the loss of valuable properties including historic sites and learning centers with common roots to the under-privileged;

Further disappointed that slum and squatter communities, in Monrovia and across Liberia, remain excluded from city planning and basic social services despite their valuable but unnoticed contributions to the day-to-day activities in cities (as drivers, marketers, mechanics, tailors, cooks, fishermen, masons, plumbers, carpenters, etc) and that instead of driving them from the cities, the Government of Liberia should shift her stance and seek lasting but beneficial solutions for these communities with their clear support;

Embarrassed that in the name of economic recovery and despite sound counsel,the Government of Liberia has not been able to prudentially aware community-based natural resources (to multinational corporations) in manners as to conserve the environment and natural resources of Liberia equitably both for the present and future generations, taking into account the rate of population growth and productivity of available resources, and in order to bequeath of future generations a natural resource patrimony that is in as good a condition as is feasible;

Embarrassed also that commercial and governmental land acquisitions are proceeding faster than progress on formalizing the customary and legitimate rights of vulnerable communities to land in Liberia and that this increased demand for land and natural resources threatens to reshape local landscapes, ecosystems, and livelihoods without considering how it fundamentally jeopardizes the communities that depend on these lands;

Aware that in areas awarded for mining, agriculture and logging concessions,  the process of internal immigration and re-settlement poses difficult challenges for long-term resident communities, newly immigrant groups and the organizations working to support land and natural resource rights and management at local level and that there is a lack of innovative initiatives for helping these communities equitably, peacefully and adaptively secure and sustainably manage their land and natural resources;

Aware also of the need to adopt and apply engagement and consultation processes that ensure the meaningful participation of indigenous communities in decision making over community-based natural resources, through a process that is consistent with their traditional decision-making processes and is based on good faith negotiation;

Concerned about the urgent need toaddress the challenges facing community rights including the violation of the Community Rights Law (CRL) by the CRL Regulation and that some provisions of the Regulation are inconsistent and in violation of the mandate of the CRL;

Lamenting that although health is increasingly recognized in both national and international law to be a legally enforceable right, the health of the rural poor and marginalized people of Liberia is under daily threat or deteriorating and that many poor people die unnecessarily every year from inadequate health care, lack of essential drugs and inaccessibility of available health posts;

Emphasizing that health is a fundamental human right and that the people of Liberia (especially vulnerable communities) have a right to demand to live in conditions that are health-promoting and to have genuine access to affordable, adequate health care services to both treat and prevent illnesses and protect health. The meeting agreed that good health for all (irrespective of status and location) should be recognized, promoted and protected as an essential ingredient for human development, for equity and for justice in the new Liberia;

Determined to advance the human rights of member organizations of the ARD and the people of Liberia, nationally and internationally, by listening to, amplifying and communicating their voices to a wider audience, and by standing with them in persuading public and political opinion of the need for an end to all human rights violations;

Impressed by the unremitting efforts and solemn pledge of the membership of the ARD, at the 5th Bi-Annual Meeting, to the promotion and protection of Economic, social and cultural rights and the adoption of the slogan “Touch-One-Touch-All” as a firm commitment to solidarity action across Liberia;

Dedicating ourselves unreservedly to addressing all constraints and obstacles and thus enhancing further the advancement and empowerment of vulnerable and under-represented communities across Liberia, and agree that this requires urgent action in the usual spirit of determination, hope, cooperation and solidarity, now and to carry us forward into the next Bi-Annual Meeting; and

Now therefore, after three (3) days of interactive discussions, we hereby adopt the following decisions:

Decision One

Amending the Constitution of Liberia to recognize and protect customary land rights

Decision Two

Observer Status and Admission of New Members

Decision Three

Communication Offer by Green Advocates International

Decision Four

Calls to Disburse Community Benefits in the Forestry Sector

Decision Five

Introducing Identity (ID) cards for the membership

Decision Six

Need for Policy on Climate Change in Liberia

Decision Seven

Women participation in activities at the Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD)

Decision Eight

The need to adopt a position on the draft Petroleum Act of Liberia

Decision Nine

The need to implement the special conclusions and recommendations from the experiencing sharing on economic social and cultural rights in Liberia

View the Full Consensus Document