The delegation of the European Commission (EC) announces the signing of a Financing Agreement for a EUR 1 million (equivalent of Le 4,380,090,000) project in support to the National Commission on Environment and Forestry (NaCEF).
The agreement was signed by the minister of Finance and Development on 21 December 2007. The signing ceremony took place a few days after the official launch of the EC-funded Gola Forest Project by President Ernest Bai Koroma, during which the president outlined the importance of the environment and sustainable natural resources management for peace, stability and economic development in Sierra Leone.
Under the overall objective to promote good environmental governance and to improve sustainable development and management of natural resources in Sierra Leone, the new project is to achieve the following.
· Harmonised and conducive policy and legislative framework to manage environment and natural resources.
· Improved technical capacity and managerial skills within NaCEF.
· Established network and collaboration on mainstreaming environment with relevant institutions.
· Improved environmental education and awareness throughout the country.
The head of EC’s Rural Development Section informed the Commission that the procurement process for the project will only start, once the status of NaCEF is agreed upon and legalized through Parliamentary Act.
After extensive discussions on the potential revision of the institutional arrangements with regards to forestry and environment within the Government of Sierra Leone, the President recently made clear his intentions to retain NaCEF until a new mandate and structure of the Commission is defined by an expert panel after the Presidential Retreat.
The EC would like to offer its support to the Government of Sierra Leone to assist this expert panel. Best practices and lessons learnt for the establishment of such an independent environmental agency under the President’s office could be drawn from other countries, such as Ghana, Liberia and Uganda, which underwent similar restructuring processes of their environmental institutions, during the past.
With the NaCEF project, the EC extends its support to the president’s views on the importance of establishing a strong environmental advisory, extension and regulatory body in the country.
During times when the local media are filled with daily reports on illegal logging, hunting, mining and fishing activities in Sierra Leone, such an institution seems to be needed more than ever, in order to keep peace and stability in the country, whose people suffered already too much from the uncontrolled and devastating exploitation of its natural resources, during the civil war.