Views from civil society
This study, conducted by independent consultant An Bollen, reports on the progress made in forest governance thanks to the Voluntary Partnership Agreement signed with the EU, and according to Congolese civil society organizations (CSOs). They highlight many improvements, including:
- The recognition of CSOs as credible partners for the development and implementation of forest legislation.
- Major legislative reforms, carried out in an inclusive manner, such as the law on indigenous peoples.
- The formalization of independent forest monitoring, carried out by civil society. 38 reports were published between January 2010 and December 2018, shedding light on infringements and irregularities.
- Increased transparency in the forestry sector: more information is available on the VPA, forest revenues, permits and industrial concessions.
However, Congolese CSOs also underline that fundamental problems remain such as corruption, poor enforcement of forest legislation (with few sanctions), weak inclusion of local communities or insufficient coordination between ministries on issues of governance.
Recommendations for the European Union:
The EU should improve coordination between the forest, land and climate initiatives in which it is involved, while ensuring funding remains available for civil society to play an active role within VPA implementation and related processes.
The EU, through both DG DEVCO and its Delegation in Brazzaville must keep VPA momentum going, and continue to push for progress towards FLEGT licenses, for completion of the forest code reform in an inclusive manner, and for VPA decentralisation to the local level.
It is important that the EU supports direct representation, access to information and involvement of local forest communities (as legitimate rightsholders), while making the resources available.