Golden Veroleum Liberia has again invited Non-Governmental Organizations to sustained fieldwork and dialogue with the company and local communities of South East Liberia.
The GVL is today the largest employer in the South East with more than 3,600 jobs providing wages, that are five times the national average, and benefits, after signing direct agreements with more than half-a-dozen communities and clans for the development of oil palm farms.
The company recognizes the Liberian communities as the true owners and decision makers of their land and therefore practices the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) principle in its engagement with all communities. GVL adheres to environmental standards and practices that go beyond the principles of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), including a commitment to no-deforestation through a High Carbon Stock (HCS) approach. GVL practices an open information policy, providing company documents, procedures, community agreements and community information for public sharing, both in community meetings, as well as, on the GVL website and Facebook pages.
A press release for GVL says the company continues to be invited for partnerships to develop land by more communities than it is possible to work within. GVL further continues to welcome constructive, open and direct dialogue and discourse.
It is against this background that the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) has published a press release titled “Harmful Social and Environmental Impacts of Liberia Palm Oil Project Exposed” and an accompanying report.
The company notes that regrettably, the report lacks a real and current understanding of the communities of South East Liberia, and of how its works with them.
In a press release, GVL says the authors of the report have not participated in sustained fieldwork with the communities for the past 1.5 years or more.
“Out-dated information is presented as current facts. The report does not go beyond vague descriptions of statements and generalities. The authors consistently quote only anonymous or unnamed sources. The report highlights only selectively picked views and quotes, while excluding others. In particular, it omits any broad community view, which would provide a more accurate reflection of GVL’s operation and its relationships with communities.”
It says these failures raise questions on the report’s reliability and objectivity, and that the report has been issued to interfere with RSPO’s own direct findings in Liberia.
The release continues that GVL works under a duly legal Concession Agreement. The Concession Agreement is an enacted Act of Law, which was passed following scrutiny by the Liberian multi-party democratic legal system. It was negotiated by a formally constituted Inter-Ministerial Concession Commission advised by international legal experts. It was reviewed, ratified and passed as an Act of Law by the Senate and the House of Representatives of Liberia, and thereafter signed into Law by the President of the Republic of Liberia in September 2010. This process conforms to legal standards and processes accepted around the world. The Liberian agreement with GVL conforms to one of the highest standards of negotiation and legal processes that any agreement may have, with praise in international reviews as exemplary in Africa.
According to the release, the Concession Agreement establishes conformance to human rights and related legislation and to RSPO standards. In particular, GVL is bound under the concession agreement to RSPO Principles & Criteria as well as applicable international law, including laws on human rights. Importantly, the concession agreement differentiates between Government land and tribal and community held land.
GVL recognizes the rights of communities as the landholders and accordingly negotiates with communities directly to reach mutually agreed agreements in accordance with FPIC principles. For example, GVL may not resettle communities, but may only apply and propose for such resettlement. In fact, GVL has committed to the approach that all community agreements and MOUs clearly confirm that GVL will not propose or request such resettlements.