Forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo: Where's the Reform?

Feature story - July 30, 2009
In an open letter delivered to the DRC's Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism last Sunday, Greenpeace denounces the serious lack of transparency in implementation of forestry sector reform and requests urgent clarifications from the government.

Forest on the banks of the Congo river system, Equatorial province, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The international donor community has been financing DRC forestry "reform" for the last seven years. In January 2009, the Minister announced the final results of a legal review of logging titles. However, a government plan to legalize a number of titles invalidated by the Interministerial Commission (IMC) overseeing the review was announced at a Council of Ministers meeting in February. The government failed to respond to a letter of protest from Congolese NGOs.

On the ground, forest communities are being kept completely in the dark about the donors' high-profile reform and have no legal recourse against IMC decisions. Information as basic as a list of valid cutting permits is unavailable. Communities are left to watch the forest be cut down without knowing which operations are legal.

The stakes are high. The DRC forests constitute the second largest rainforest in the world after the Amazon. The world's new found interest in protecting the forests of the Congo Basin could be an historic opportunity for the DRC to:

  • Develop and implement alternative uses of the forest that are socially, ecologically and economically sustainable
  • Value biodiversity and the role of intact primary forests in schemes to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD)

However, this would be possible only with transparency and good governance in place, and currently there is little of either. In addition, it would require a participatory land use plan that respects intact forests and the rights and livelihood of indigenous peoples and forest communities, instead of giving carte blanche to uncontrolled logging.

René Ngongo, Greenpeace Africa Political Advisor concludes: "It is not too late to save the intact forests of the DRC and to support truly sustainable development models that benefit the Congolese people. But the time to act is now."

Open letter to Mr. José Endundo Bononge, Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism (French)

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