Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor is a 2006 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize for exposing evidence that Liberia President Charles Taylor used the profits of unchecked, rampant logging to pay the costs of a brutal 14-year civil war that left 150,000 people dead. At great personal risk, Silas collected extremely hard-to-get evidence of falsified logging records, illegal logging practices and associated human rights abuses. He passed the evidence to the United Nations Security Council, which then banned the export of Liberian timber, part of wider trade sanctions that remain in place today. Since Taylor was ousted in 2003, Silas has been working with Liberia’s new leadership to create sustainable timber policies and give the local forest communities a voice through the first Forest People’s Congress, which he organized. Demonstrating the power of the sanctions and the evidence Silas exposed, the first presidential order issued by new President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf cancelled all of Liberia’s forest concessions. Johnson-Sirleaf, the first democratically elected female president in Africa, vowed that new forest use agreements will not be issued until a range of forest reforms has been carried out.
ERI, with the assistance of ERI’s Cooperating Attorney Program, at Silas Siakor’s request, reviewed Liberia’s new Forestry Reform Law for gaps in human rights and environmental protection. ERI and the Cooperating Attorneys also reviewed a set of draft regulations for human rights and environmental protection sufficiency. As a result of this review, ERI provided a line-by-line analysis of the gaps in the existing law and draft regulations based on international human rights and environmental standards. Based on this analysis, ERI will also provide draft provisions which will fill the gaps for community participation and benefit sharing, which will also be based on international standards. The hope is that these draft provisions will either be incorporated into the existing Forestry Reform Law as amendments or adopted as implementing regulations. Eventually, ERI will take this experience and provide a legislative review checklist, which will provide other countries with the tools to review their laws for environmental and human rights protection sufficiency.
Siakor, the director of the Sustainable Development Institute, coordinated civil society’s participation in the forest sector reform, as mandated by the U.N. Security Council and vowed by President Johnson-Sirleaf. As a result of Silas’s efforts, a new Forestry Reform Act was passed in November 2006. It is this law and proposed amendments, which ERI and the Cooperating Attorney’s have reviewed.
Silas recently sent a note to ERI saying, “On behalf of the Sustainable Development Institute in Nigeria, and the many Liberians that will benefit from this work, I would like to express our gratitude for this work. We greatly appreciate your individual and collective sacrifice and effort.”
ERI would like to specifically thank Cooperating Attorneys, Bridget Baker-White, Richard Corcoran, Doug Field and Melissa Ruggiero for all of their dedication and hard work on this project.
If you are interested in joining ERI’s Cooperating Attorney Program to work on exciting projects such as this, please contact Marco Simons, Legal Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.