Liberia: How conservation can lift a nation from disaster to development

8/13/2009

Press Statement from Frank Hawkins - Vice President, Conservation International (Africa and Madagascar program):

Hillary Clinton’s support for the progress made by Liberia in recent years is well placed. The country has proved that African development does not have to be undertaken at the expense of the environment, and that African nations have the potential to be key players in the battle against climate change. The US Government, thought USAID, has already played a major role in this.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government has had the foresight to create opportunities for the protection of the country’s forests – as a tool to tackle climate change – to contribute to the country’s battle against poverty. The people of Liberia and the people of the world stand to benefit from this, and Conservation International is proud to have worked with the President and her team to devise strategies to help the Liberian people through conservation of the nation’s important ecosystems.

This opportunity to protect the country’s forests should mean that Liberia will be better able to provide fresh, clean water to its population, will have a more robust agricultural sector, will be able to create a profitable tourism industry and will be able to generate revenue from the carbon markets. This depends on the Government of the US and other nations supporting the country to build the good governance required, but the investment has the potential to pay-off substantially.

Indeed, Liberia’s effort to generate revenue for its people from the burgeoning carbon market has the potential to change the face of Africa forever. If the US Government, the EU and other major economies ensure that a strong commitment is made to protecting the world’s standing forests at the forthcoming Copenhagen climate conference – meaning that forested nations are equitably rewarded for preventing deforestation and replanting lost forest – then Liberia has the potential to become a template for the rest of the continent, and to help the rest of the planet to overcome the greatest environmental threat in recent times.

Liberia has turned the page on a bitter recent history of war and brutality – an achievement that deserves praise and support from the international community – and Conservation International would encourage the US government and other nations and institutions of the world to support the country’s efforts to rebuild itself in an environmentally sustainable way with both financial and political commitments.

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For further details contact:

Rob McNeil
Media Director
Conservation International
tel: 1-703-341-2561
mobile: 1-571-232-0455
email: rmcneil@conservation.org

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