About the EKMS
Why was the EKMS created?
In an effort to bridge knowledge management gaps, the EKMS was created to strengthen institutional coordination between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Partner governmental institutions as well as non-governmental organizations that have direct linkages with environmental policies and development. It was also created to increase access and dissemination of key information and promote adequate public awareness and education.
The EKMS is an output of the Cross-Cutting Capacity Development Project (CCCD). The project funded by the GEF and implemented by the EPA in partnership with the UNDP in collaboration with Natural Resources Management Agencies of Liberia. The project is in line with GEF-6 CCCD Strategy objective 1, 3, and 5 which call for countries to: a) integrate global environmental needs into management information systems and monitoring, b) integrate MEA provisions into national policy, legislative, and regulatory frameworks, and c) update NCSAs, respectively.
A1. Global Environmental Challenges
Liberia is located on the southwest coast of Africa, and boarders the Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Liberia is divided into 15 counties, which are subdivided into 90 districts. Although Liberia is a rather small country, it has significant biodiversity. There are 600 bird species, 150 mammals, 75 reptiles and over 2000 flowering plants. Some notable species in Liberia include western chimpanzees, forest elephants, and leopards. Liberia also has rich forests; around 42% of the Upper Guinea Forest of West Africa is contained within Liberia (Republic of Liberia, 2014; Republic of Liberia, 2004). Liberia also has numerous natural resources such as timber, rubber, gold diamonds, and iron ore. Economically, the forestry and agriculture sectors are two of the most important sectors in Liberia. Agriculture accounts for over 70% of livelihoods (Dorliae, 2012).
Liberia faces numerous environmental challenges including land degradation, fragmentation, deforestation, soil erosion, and pollution. The dependence on forestry presents a unique environmental risk as Liberia’s forest is part of the West African Hotspot. This (once) rich ecosystem has faced severe deforestation; only ten percent of the original forest remains, of which around 40% lies in Liberia. Unfortunately, this remaining forest is at risk serious risk of deforestation. Over the past two centuries, Liberia has lost over 60% of its forest cover (Republic of Liberia, 2004), and deforestation rates have increased since 2000. Increases in deforestation and land degradation are largely due to displaced people clearing land. Also contributing to deforestation, biodiversity loss, and land degradation is unsustainable farming practices, mining, charcoal production, invasive species, hunting, and unregulated timber extraction. Poaching is also rampant and mitigation measures are lacking; the draft Wildlife Management and Protected Areas Act remains in draft form (Dorliae, 2012).
Climate change also poses a real threat to Liberia. Among other threats, Liberia’s economy and human health could be threatened by rising temperatures and water scarcity. Currently, the country does not have strong capacities for mitigation and adaptation; Liberia has no institutions that offer climate change education or research programs (although, the University of Liberia does offer programs on the environment). Additionally, there are no organized or coordinated programs for meteorological, hydrological, or climate research and observation. Currently, only fragmented services are available. Along with a lack of observation networks, government bodies are hindered by inadequately-trained staff (Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia, 2013).
Although aware of the environmental situation, Liberia has struggled to address these environmental issues. The civil wars, which lasted for more than 10 years, served to exacerbate the situation. Poverty also presents a serious challenge; causing degradation and drawing attention and resources from environmental concerns. Over 60% of Liberians live in poverty. Of these, over 40% of citizens live in extreme poverty (Dorliae, 2012). The outbreak of Ebola in 2014 also threatened Liberia’s progress, as the crisis became a priority for the government and stretched already limited resources. Fortunately in January 2016 the outbreak was declared resolved. Overall, there has been slow progress in sustainable development and meeting obligations under the Rio Conventions.
There are a few key root causes of environmental degradation in Liberia. The most critical include: human settlements and population pressures; shifting cultivation; timber exploitation; and rubber plantations. More generally, root causes are related to over-exploitation of biological resources; poverty; political instability and wars; education; and inadequate law enforcement (Republic of Liberia, 2004). From a reporting perspective, one root cause of Liberia’s development challenges is the fact that Focal Points are located in different agencies, which thereby limits coordination and collaboration between them.
A2. Capacity Barriers
Liberia has undertaken numerous initiatives to address environmental issues. Despite the achievements Liberia made, Liberia continues to face important challenges to meeting environmental goals. As a Rio Convention mainstreaming project, the proposed strategy sets out to meet barriers identified in Liberia’s 2006 National Capacity Self-Assessment (NCSA), which was undertaken though a consultative process and participatory approach that involved numerous stakeholders from various sectors. Through the inclusive and consultative process of the NCSA, stakeholders identified a number of areas that explain the difficulty in fulfilling the obligations of the Rio Conventions. The NCSA identified the following barriers that cut across the three Rio Conventions:
- Inadequate public awareness and education/training
- Inadequate institutions and institutional frameworks
- Inadequate political commitment
- Inadequate planning skills and resources, as well as incomplete structures at all levels of policy implementation
- Inadequate financial resources and economic framework
- Inadequate strategic plans and implementation
- Inadequate access to information
- Inadequate policies and legal frameworks
- Low level of involvement of civil society
- Inadequate natural resources management systems
- Lack of institutional capacities
- Lack of effective mechanism for information processing and sharing
Liberia’s Agenda for Transformation 2012-2017 confirmed many of the barriers identified in the NCSA. Specifically, the agenda noted the following barriers:
- Weak technical, administrative and managerial capacities;
- Weak institutional coordination;
- Unclear policies and mechanisms to enable effective participation by especially non-state actors; at the national and local levels;
- Limited stakeholder participation in planning and decision-making processes;
- Limited dissemination of key information (Republic of Liberia, 2013).
Barriers were also reaffirmed in the Liberia Constraints Analysis (Government of Liberia, 2013).
A.3 Consistency with National Priorities
The country has demonstrated a desire to improve the environmental policy framework with the preparation of multiple new policies including the National Environmental Protection and Management Law (2003), the National Environmental Policy (2003), the establishment of an Environmental Protection Agency, in 2003, the National Forestry Law (2000), and the New Mineral and Mining Laws (2000).
In the first Poverty Reduction Strategy, the environment was considered a cross-cutting issue. Some achievements made during implementation of this strategy include passage of the Community Rights Law, which established a system for community harvesting of forests. Efforts were also undertaken to improve protected areas management and increase the size/number of protected areas. In Liberia’s medium-term Poverty Reduction Strategy II (2012-2018) there is a fifth pillar: Cross-Cutting Issues which includes the environment. Additionally, environmental issues have been integrated into other pillars of the strategy specifically the economic pillar.
During the Liberia Rio +20 National Consultative Workshop, Liberia identified five issues that are essential for accomplishing its development goals and objectives. Additionally, Liberia has also developed a National Capacity Development Strategy (2010), which calls for investing in areas needed to achieve development goals.
The project will assist the Government of Liberia to achieve the national priorities it has set in Liberia RISING 2030. The aim of this is to transform Liberia through a new development strategy, which was launched in December 2012. The overall objective is to turn Liberia into a middle income country by 2030.
The project is also in line with Liberia’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan II (NBSAP) which aims to, as part of Liberia’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, and in line with the National Environmental Policy of Liberia, assist the people of Liberia to acknowledge and exercise responsible stewardship over biological resources to meet the needs of the present without endangering the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Some of the goals are to protect critical ecosystems, create biodiversity awareness, and increase commitment to sustainable use of biological diversity (Republic of Liberia, 2017).
Liberia’s 2008 National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA), as a response to the impacts of climate change, aligns with National Environmental Policy which calls for the sustainable management of Liberia’s environment and natural resources. The NAPA also aims to establish synergies between adaptation and national development plans, such as the National Reconstruction and Development Plan, Millennium Development Goals, and the National Biodiversity and Strategy Action Plan. The NAPA identifies key adaptation needs and list priority actions, such as enhancing resilience to increasing rainfall variability through agriculture, to address the needs.
This project is also in line with Liberia’s UNDAF 2013-2017. The UN Country Team decided that the new UNDAF would also take into account the requirements of Delivering as One. Thus, in addition to the Strategic Framework and Results Matrix, the UNDAF is accompanied by a detailed Costed Action Plan. Together they constitute the One Programme. The four pillars of the One UN Programme are:
- Peace, Security, Rule of Law
- Sustainable Economic Transformation
- Human Development
- Inclusive Governance and Public Institutions
The UNDAF (One Programme) also aligns with Liberia’s National medium-term strategy, known as the Agenda for Transformation. The Agenda for Transformation is based on five pillars:
- Peace, Security and Rule of Law
- Economic Transformation
- Human Development
- Governance and Public Institutions
- Cross-cutting issues
The Agenda contains a specific goal to improve management of the environment to safeguard sustained economic development and growth. Specific actions called for in this agenda include: a) developing environmental quality standards and regulatory tools; b) harmonizing environmental laws and policies to ensure improved environmental management; c) undertake a gap analysis of sectoral environmental laws and policies; d) create environmental awareness; e) create training and education programmes; f) develop a public awareness strategy and campaign; g) train professionals in effective environmental management; strengthen environmental units in ministries through training and improved coordination; and h) develop a system to collect and disseminate environmental information/data.
The design and implementation of the proposed CCCD project would also take into account the development plans of other bilateral and multilateral donors in Liberia to ensure appropriate alignment as well as to leverage the necessary co-financing.
A.4 Baseline Scenario and Associated Baseline Projects
Liberia is struggling to fulfill many of the objectives set forth in the Rio Conventions. Many of the developed frameworks and plans for action face limited implementation due to limited government resources, limited human capacity, and a lack of appropriate technologies. Liberia struggles with an inadequate system for information and knowledge management and the poor information sharing between or within sectors. Additionally, the country’s degraded and limited infrastructure combined with a low technical and institutional capacity severely limit Liberia’s environmental governance framework and thus its potential to conserve the natural environment, let alone secure long-term benefits from it. The civil war only exacerbated the situation, leading to displacement of individuals and unprecedented amounts of resource exploitation. Although Liberia is recovering from the war, 85% of the population still lives below the international poverty line. Liberia’s HDI (2014) is 0.430, ranking the country 177 out of 188 (UNDP, 2015).
Multilateral donor agencies specifically in the field of natural resource management currently working in Liberia now include the African Development Bank, GEF, IFAD, UNDP, and the World Bank. Bilateral donor agencies are also very important development partners from, Norway, and the United States (USAID), as well as other inter-governmental organizations such as the CARE International, Conservation International, and the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia.
National environmental NGOs, with assistance from Conservation International, organized themselves into the Alliance for Conservation in Liberia. The goal of this body is to ensure that all local NGOs who are or would like to be involved in conservation of biodiversity can do so without overlapping efforts or functions.
Liberia has made significant progress since the end of the civil war by investing in infrastructure, revising existing policies and laws, and reviewing the mandates of political institutions to reduce duplication. One area of progress is updating the mandates and restructuring Government ministries and agencies to improve effectiveness and efficiency. Liberia has also established new agencies like the Rural and Renewable Energy Agency to promote the sustainable development strategy. Reforms in Liberia have been undertaken on an institution-by-institution basis and have not been considered on a holistic basis, nor have they increased coordination and harmonization.
Between 2010 and 2012, UNEP implemented a global project, entitled Piloting Integrated Processes and Approaches to Facilitate National Reporting to Rio Conventions that included Liberia as a beneficiary country. This project focused on helping Liberia (among other countries) to better organize modalities for accessing and preparing their national reports. Notwithstanding the capacities developed, a number of important capacities remained to be developed, such as the standardization of data collection and information analysis, improved coordination and collaboration to facilitate streamlined national reporting, and increased awareness and stakeholder engagement in the national reporting process. During the project implementation, activities under component 4 will undertake an updated assessment of the systemic, institutional, and individual capacities that remain a priority to be developed in order to meet and sustain Rio Convention obligations.
A description of on-going projects that this project will coordinate with appears in section C.4 Partnerships. Relevant completed UNDP GEF projects that form the baseline of this project include:
Associated Baseline Projects
|Project Name||Description of project’s alignment with CCCD project|
|GEF Enhancing Resilience to Climate Change by Mainstreaming Adaption Concerns into Agricultural Sector Development in Liberia (Ending September 2015)||The expected results of this project included improving the rural communities’ capacities, increasing sustainable livestock and crop production, and reducing poverty.|
|FAO to Support MOA Statistics and Information Management System||The objective of this project was to support the implementation of a linked information and knowledge system.|
|Smallholder Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Commercialization Project (SAPEC)||The goal this project was to reduce rural poverty and household food insecurity. One component is capacity building and institutional strengthening, which includes trainings.|
B.1 Alternative Strategies
During the conceptualization of the present cross-cutting capacity development project, a number of alternative approaches were considered, taking into account the current set of interventions currently underway and planned for Liberia. An important starting point was the findings and recommendations of the National Capacity Self-Assessment, followed by a consideration of the lessons learned from other projects, such as a review of the Final Evaluation of the Mainstreaming and Capacity Building for Sustainable Land Management project . A review of the recommendations contained in the more recent Rio Convention reports was also considered, such as the 2016 National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.
The single most common cross-cutting capacity development constraint that was recurring in the various assessments and action plans was the significantly low institutional capacity for managing data and information for improved planning and decision-making to meet and sustain Rio Convention obligations. Taking into account the GEF-6 Cross-Cutting Capacity Development priority of strengthening mainstreaming capacities as a strategy to meet the duality of national development and global environmental priorities, this project’s objective was formulated.
From an implementation perspective, a number of alternative approaches were considered to meet the stated objective. One was for Liberia to continue the same approach of implementing focal area projects, and to strengthen the key set of systemic, institutional, and individual capacities through focal area projects. However, this approach will not address the capacity development gaps nor result in creating synergies. Another aspect considered was to have different components executed by different agencies. The challenge with this approach is the relative weak coordination among government ministries and agencies – indeed an important capacity development need that the project would help address. A related issue was the government’s keen desire to use the project to strengthen national capacity of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The selected strategy was based on the real need to strengthen meaningful capacities that can be successfully institutionalized. The key here is not for the project to take on more than the Environmental Protection Agency can absorb, but rather, through the process of project execution, learn how to formulate better plans and make better decisions regarding the global environment within the framework of their institutional mandates. That is, this project places a premium on address institutional sustainability by emphasizing the execution of the project through a wide range of learning-by-doing exercises by the EPA. This will require that they reach out of other government ministries and agencies to meet complementary and shared mandates as well as to effectively negotiate resolution of real or perceived conflicts of interests that come about through Rio Convention mainstreaming.
B.2 Selected Scenario
This project is in line with the GEF-6 CCCD Strategy objective 1, 3, and 5 which call for countries to: a) integrate global environmental needs into management information systems and monitoring, b) integrate MEA provisions into national policy, legislative, and regulatory frameworks, and c) update NCSAs, respectively.
The uniqueness of this project is centered on its cross-cutting nature. Other projects currently under implementation focus on strengthening targeted capacities under one of the three Rio Conventions, and thus have a relatively narrower system boundary than the CCCD programme approach. In the absence of the CCCD project, there remains likelihood that Liberia would not realize its full potential for sustainable development due to limited coordination and decentralization. Additionally, it is likely that environmental management in Liberia would continue to focus on traditionally narrow constructs.
B.3 Knowledge Management
This project is part of a portfolio of capacity building interventions in Liberia that encourages regional cooperation and knowledge and information exchanges. Partnerships and collaboration will also catalyze the transfer of knowledge and competencies among actors and stakeholders. Lessons learned from other projects will be included, as appropriate (for example, in the training programmes and the knowledge management system). This project also contains specific activities to increase the use and sharing of knowledge, and to strengthen critical thinking in understanding the implications of the global environment towards the pursuit of sustainable development. These include a series of learning-by-doing workshops and public dialogues among a diverse set of stakeholders. Component one focuses on establishing a system for collecting and sharing information and data between the institutions for better environmental management and the fulfillment of the obligations of the Rio Conventions (an EKMS).
The system that the project developed is the ideal platform to share lessons learned and experiences with the main stakeholders of environmental information and knowledge. Universities and research centers will be at the center of the information and knowledge management and will ensure the integration of innovative scientific and technical information into the project setup and into other baseline initiatives.
The project’s approach to knowledge management is consistent with the International Resource Panel Report on Policy Coherence of the Sustainable Development Goals which emphasizes the need for developing widespread awareness and creating and disseminating decision support tools.
What does the EKMS include?
The Environmental Knowledge Management System (EKMS) is an integrated online knowledge platform which strive to draw on and complement a growing agenda on the Rio Conventions within the Natural Resource Management Sector and external partners to scale up environmental initiatives.
The EKMS provides free and open access to information from key government and other institutions in Liberia relating to the implementation of the Rio Conventions – The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The EKMS is deployed under the supervision of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in collaboration with twelve relevant government institutions. Information access on this platform include reports, publications, case studies, tools and guidelines, institution’s technical documents, and other related materials.
Additionally, the EKMS provides a platform for government institutions and other contributors to share latest blogs, news and stories related to the Rio Conventions implementation process.
The EPA gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), for the development of this Environmental Knowledge Management System (EKMS).