A woman from a forest dependant community gathers firewood. Approximately 40 million people in the DRC depend on the rainforest for their basic needs, such as medicine, food or shelter. Logging is seen by the World Bank and other donors as a way to alleviate poverty and promote economic development.
Logging titles have been under the microscope in DRC for three
years, under a review financed by the World Bank. Greenpeace has
been keeping watch to see if the review actually protects these
ever-diminishing tropical forests, rather than the loggers'
On Monday 6 October, the review was announced and at the same
time Environment Minister Jose Endundo made a public commitment to
extend the current moratorium. While the announcement of the
moratorium is good news, we fear that with such a flawed review,
the reality could be business-as-usual for unregulated logging in
Legal precedents ignored
In 2002, a moratorium stopped the allocation of new concessions
in DR Congo, in an effort to keep logging out of protected areas.
The Government then launched a review in 2005 to determine which
existing contracts could be converted to legal concessions under
the conditions of the Forest Code.
In the initial findings released this week, the commission
responsible for the review has declared that logging can now take
place under 46 of the 156 contracts - including 33 that are illegal
titles obtained in breach of the 2002 moratorium.
From the very start, the terms of reference were flawed and
easily manipulated by companies with vested interests. For example,
the review's own Technical Working Group said that there was not
enough information on previous permit boundaries to judge whether
companies have been operating outside of them.
Greenpeace's briefing paper published today shows how more
destructive logging could occur on these concessions that were
No social or environmental considerations
Even if the terms were followed properly, the review would still
be woefully inadequate.
Social conflicts are ever-present in these company's concession
areas - violations of human rights are the rule rather than the
exception. However, the review did not measure or even acknowledge
this aspect of logging.
Without social and environmental criteria, the process ignores
both local people's livelihoods and the global significance of
tropical forest in stabilising climate change and protecting
The draft review findings were kept secret for over a week, only
circulated to the companies concerned and not to forest communities
who are immediately at risk from logging.
Desperate need for good governance
The Swiss-German SIFORCO (owned by Danzer Group) and all the
subsidiaries of the Portuguese NST Group have seen the majority of
their titles approved.
In our report Conning the Congo, we exposed how companies
like Danzer are cheating local people out of large amount of tax
These companies are now promoting themselves as ready for
"sustainable certification" for European markets. In fact, they are
logging in intact forests, near biodiversity hotspots and exporting
masses of internationally protected tree species.
Can we really expect them to do the right thing?
Without basic regulation, it is impossible enforce the law or
trace the origin of logs - making a mockery of international
efforts to cut demand for illegal forest timber.
Now that the Environmental Minister has committed to extend the
current moratorium we urge the DRC government to turn this
commitment into a reality with a legally binding Presidential
decree. We also urge those nations who are active donors of the DRC
to provide support so that this decree can be properly implemented
and monitored while the country works to improve the governance in
the forest sector.
It is also time for alternatives given the scientific evidence
of the vital role forests play in stablising global climate change.
To protect the remaining Congo forests, we call for a participatory
land-use plan, based on the needs and rights of forest-dependent
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