Briefing Document / Sept. 3, 2012

Signing Their Lives Away: Liberia’s Private Use Permits and the Destruction of Community-Owned Rainforest

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A quarter of Liberia’s total landmass has been granted to logging companies in just two years, following an explosion in the use of secretive and often illegal logging permits, an investigation by Global Witness, Save My Future Foundation (SAMFU) and Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) shows. Unless this crisis is tackled immediately, the country’s forests could suffer widespread devastation, leaving the people who depend upon them stranded and undoing the country’s fragile progress following the resource-fuelled conflicts of 1989 to 2003.

The new logging contracts – termed Private Use Permits – now cover 40 percent of Liberia’s forests and almost half of Liberia’s best intact forests. They have given companies linked to notorious Malaysian logging giant Samling unparalleled access to some of Liberia’s most pristine forests. Samling and its subsidiaries have been involved in numerous cases of illegal logging in countries around the world, from Cambodia to Guyana to Papua New Guinea. In August 2012 Global Witness wrote to Samling requesting comment on the company’s involvement in the Private Use Permit scandal but received no response. In a June 2009 letter to Global Witness, Samling denied that it was linked to any logging companies in Liberia.

This report sets out the problem, its impact on communities and environment, and calls for urgent action to punish those responsible and fix the system.