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Donors must not accept violations in Congo’s Conkouati-Douli Park

11 Juni 2024

Donors must not accept violations in Congo’s Conkouati-Douli Park

NGOs are denouncing the Republic of Congo’s (RoC) decision to violate international and domestic obligations concerning the Congolese national park of Conkouati-Douli by allowing oil exploration in its fragile ecosystem. International and EU donors, who for years have committed funding to forests in Congo generally, and specifically towards this park, must show that they are watching, and will not accept violation of agreements; they will have the occasion to do so at an international conference on afforestation and reforestation organised by the Congolese Government from 2 -5 July 2024. 

The Congolese Government has ratified an array of domestic and international instruments that should protect the Conkouati-Douli national park, spanning nearly 800,000 hectares of terrestrial and marine habitats. The park’s exceptional biodiversity has earned it protective status under UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention, and its wetlands are protected under the Ramsar Convention. It is classified as high carbon stock and high fauna potential under REDD+. Several of its rare and endangered species are featured on the IUCN’s Red List.  

Conkouati-Douli is also the home of traditional and Indigenous communities, some of whom have fished its waters since the 13th Century. Their rights are protected by domestic provisions, and enshrined in RoC’s recently revised Forest Code, including the right to free, prior and informed consent. Managed by the French NGO Noé, the park receives funding from the EU to develop local communities’ economic activities, such as sustainable fisheries, and participatory management.  

The EU supported the Three Basins initiative (FW 290) and EU-Congo Forest Partnership Roadmap by committing EUR 25 million in October 2023. That December, at the 28th United Nations Climate Conference (COP28), the EU, France and private international donors committed US$50 million to RoC’s conservation of forests and wetlands to help meet climate objectives and to halt biodiversity loss, as foreseen in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.  

Casting these international commitments aside, and in violation of domestic legislation that prohibits logging and mining in protected areas (Decree N°99-136 bis du 14 août 1999, N°99-136 bis, and Law 37-2008), the following month, on 18 January 2024, the Congolese Government issued a permit to China Oil Natural Gas Overseas Holding United for oil exploration affecting the park.  

This violates domestic and international legal provisions, the rights of its local communities and Indigenous Peoples, and undermines more than a decade of forest governance reforms committed to under the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement, and more recently the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). It also threatens to destroy an ecotourism project currently being developed for the area.  

Congolese and international NGOs, including Fern’s partner Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l’Homme (OCDH), are demanding that the Government immediately withdraw or annul the permits granted to China Oil Natural Gas Overseas Holding United, as well as any other permits targeting the national park. They urge the Government to create the management plan foreseen in the Forest Code, and the CAFI letter of intention.  

If RoC is testing how far it can bend the rules, international donors must indicate that the limits have been reached. They must urge the Government to reverse course and uphold its engagements before yet another natural jewel is lost, and suspend funding until it does.

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Image credit: antoinee/Shutterstock

Kategorien: News, Forest Watch, EU Partnerships, Illegal logging, The Republic of Congo

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