Amidst concerns that the plight of Central African rainforests attracts less global attention than the Amazon, Germany took over facilitation of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) in January 2020. Germany can now guide the CBFP to consider innovative approaches to forest and biodiversity loss, and to increase governance and civil society engagement in the partnership.
The CBFP was launched in 2002 to tackle the significant threats to the world’s second-largest tropical forests; among them, fires, unscrupulous logging and large-scale deforestation. The partnership brings together African countries, donor agencies, NGOs and scientific institutions to improve the management of these forests and to protect the livelihoods of the 60 million people and the biodiversity who depend on them.
Germany can carve a transformational path for the Partnership by considering the following four challenges:
- Forests and biodiversity are a global concern as never before. German facilitation should ensure that EU trade, climate and development policies affecting natural resource management in Central Africa, and initiatives such as the recent European Green Deal, consider the needs of those whose survival depends on these resources.
- Beyond the traditional conservation focus, the CBFP should vow to tackle the elephant in the room: corruption and bad governance. Consistently ranked among the world’s most corrupt, improving governance in Central African countries requires a broad, holistic approach. The CBFP should vigorously promote regulatory measures and governance mechanisms that strengthen accountability; these should include Voluntary Partnership Agreements and the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI).
- Central Africa’s most vulnerable people – women and Indigenous groups – bear the brunt of extreme weather and climate events. Enhanced support could transform their Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement. These are important avenues to define and implement affordable, inclusive climate solutions that incorporate forests.
- Poverty and social distress continue to plague the region, despite vast natural treasures. The CBFP must find a way to sustain the livelihoods of forest smallholders and communities in activities to protect biodiversity and forests. The Brazzaville roadmap on participatory forestry provides valuable solutions to ramp up community involvement in forest management and to consolidate their rights.
Fern and its partners from the region hope that German facilitation will spur innovative actions and pathways on topics such as livelihoods, climate, deforestation and land and energy use in the forest landscapes of Central Africa. This can best be done if civil society organisations have a seat at the table and the capacity and resolve to contribute meaningfully.