Monrovia — Golden Veroleum (Liberia) Inc. (GVL) acknowledges the report released by SDI and Milieudefensie which indicated that "GVL structurally fails to comply with obligations and commitments from the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that were signed in 2014 with the affected communities. "
While the scorecard is informative, it lacks details and context which are important for a reader to gain a truly meaningful insight into each theme highlighted. As part of its Sustainability Action Plan launched in 2018, GVL has also conducted a series of engagements with communities to audit and document the fulfilment of MOU commitments. Sustained and repeated discussions are required with each community to truly understand and agree on gaps in perception, interpretation and indeed fulfilment of MOU commitments.
The following examples illustrate the above points:
1. Community Oil Palm / Outgrower Program
GVL is committed to this. However, as mentioned in clause 15.3 of the Concession Agreement between the Government of Liberia and GVL, this Community Oil Palm / Outgrower Program needs to be done together with the Government of Liberia. The Government of Liberia's obligations include providing land and to obtain sources of funding for the program. Recognizing constraints faced by the Government of Liberia, GVL has explored implementing the program with other partners since 2016 but has been unable to proceed. The Community Oil Palm/Outgrower program remains a priority for GVL and GVL continues to explore ways to implement it with the Government of Liberia and other potential partners.
2. Community Development / Employment
GVL's recruitment policy is to consider qualified citizens first for every job vacancy. The Company's longer-term vision and strategic intent is to groom Liberians and local citizens to eventually take on leadership and operational positions in the Company. To that end, GVL now has (3) three farms which are managed by Liberians and the Company has trained the Liberian engineers and technicians to take on positions of responsibility in the Company's palm oil mill in Tarjuowon area, Sinoe County. The Company believes that GVL is on the right trajectory to increase the proportion of Liberian professionals and managers in the Company.
3. Finalization of MOUs
GVL has been engaging with the (3) three communities mentioned since early 2019 for finalization. With mediation by the National Bureau of Concessions (NBC), the Company submitted drafts of the Company's input to the communities for their comments, recommending this be done with guidance of their own legal counsel. NBC would then have served as a referee to help the Company agree on a permanent MOU, by September 2019. However, to date the communities have not responded with their feedback. The Company understands that there are supporting NGOs which were ready to provide funding for legal counsel, but this was possibly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. GVL is keen for this process to continue.
The Company hopes that the above examples provide a more complete picture of what is the current situation with respect to MOU fulfillment. The Company believes a better way to improve outcomes for communities is for SDI to engage constructively with GVL with the information which they have gathered from their meetings so that we are able to better understand the gaps and work towards closing them.
GVL is committed to sustainable business and operational practices and also recognize the value of protecting the natural environment, social and economic progress, and supporting the livelihoods of the communities.
GVL continues to work with communities to ensure the full implementation of the agreements signed.