Despite undeniable progress, forest governance in the Republic of Congo (RoC) remains weak. Two new studies highlight that only radical reforms to fight corruption, increase accountability and transparency, strengthen law enforcement and better involve civil society will permit Congolese forests to fully engage in the fight against climate change.
These conclusions come just months after RoC signed an agreement of US$ 65 million with the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), committing itself to preserving its forests. Notably, according to information from 2015, forests cover 69 per cent of the country’s territory, equal to 23.5 million hectares. The forestry sector in RoC is the country’s second-biggest private jobs provider.
- The first study, Evaluating the VPA process in the Republic of Congo, conducted by independent consultant An Bollen, reports how the Voluntary Partnership Agreement signed with the EU has helped improve forest governance in the country. Civil society organisations (CSOs) highlight the many improvements, including increased transparency in the forestry sector, and their own recognition as credible partners for the development and implementation of major national legislative reforms. CSOs also stress the formalisation of their role in carrying out independent forest monitoring.
- The second, Forest governance and climate action in the Republic of Congo: Challenges and perspectives, was co-written by Fern, Climate Analytics and Congolese NGO RPDH. It demonstrates that forest protection is conditional on good governance, which includes accountability, transparency, coordination, participation and capacity. Strengthening governance will allow RoC’s forests to play their role in the fight against global warming, thereby enabling the country to deliver on its commitments under the Paris Agreement.
Despite progress, both reports underline that fundamental problems remain, such as corruption, poor enforcement of forest legislation (with few sanctions), weak inclusion of local communities and insufficient coordination between ministries.
The reports conclude with recommendations to both national decisionmakers and international funders about how to improve governance. They suggest keeping the “VPA momentum” going, continuing to push for progress towards FLEGT licenses, furthering increasing transparency in the forestry sector and making complaint mechanisms workable and accessible to all.