Liberia houses two-thirds of the Upper Guinean Rainforest, which has been classified as a biodiversity hotspot by global conservation groups. A biodiversity hotspot is a region that is rich in species that are native, both fauna and flora, and that is under threat of losing a majority of those species.
The Upper Guinean Rainforest is one of the most critically fragmented regions on the planet. Only approximately 12 percent of the original intact ecosystem remains. Liberia is home to many endemic species, such as the last remaining viable population of the Pygmy hippopotamus. It is also the last stronghold of forest elephants in West Africa. Logging operations have increased exponentially in the past few years, leaving approximately 60 percent of the country's forests now severely degraded.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) has been involved with Liberia since it uncovered former president Charles Taylor's role in trafficking diamonds for Sierra Leone and using those revenues to buy weapons for various rebel groups. For his role the diamond trade, Charles Taylor was charged with crimes against humanity in a Special Court for Sierra Leone. With a ban on diamonds, Taylor turned to Liberia's forests to fund the purchase of arms. Taylor doled out Liberia's forests to various logging companies and often money from the logging operations was used to purchase arms and mercenaries fueling civil war in Liberia. Under serious political pressure from the U.S. and the rest of the world, Taylor fled Liberia in 2003 seeking refuge in nearby Nigeria. With Taylor out of power a transitional government was set up to ready Liberia for general elections in 2005.
Since 2000, Greenpeace has repeatedly exposed the links between Liberian logging companies associated with illicit arms trading and timber traders throughout Europe and North America. Through extensive research we presented new and damning evidence to the timber industry, and blocked shipments of Liberian timber into many European ports, calling for timber companies to put an end to the trade in conflict timber.
Conflict timber has been defined by Global Witness as "timber that has been traded at some point in the chain of custody by armed groups, be they rebel factions or regular soldiers, or by a civilian administration, or its representatives, involved in armed conflict, either to perpetuate conflict or take advantage of conflict situations for personal gain."
Because of this evidence and intense campaigning by Greenpeace and Global Witness among other organizations, the UNSC agreed to impose sanctions on Liberian timber, thus ending the role of the timber trade in fueling Taylor's war machine.
These sanctions were imposed to afford the National Transitional Government of Liberia time to put in place transparent measures to ensure revenues earned from Liberian timber are used for the benefit of all the people of Liberia, and also to establish full authority and control over timber producing regions.
Greenpeace has been monitoring the situation in Liberia and supports the interim findings of a panel of experts sent to Liberia to assess the progress made towards the criteria set forth in UNSC Resolution 1521. The NTGL has as of yet established full control over the timber producing areas nor have they established full transparency in the timber industry. It is critical that Liberia be given the time necessary to establish transparency, monitoring and control over its forest sector prior to the resumption of trade.