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Democratic Republic of the Congo: Indigenous rights law inches forward and CSOs weigh in ahead of COP26

10 febrero 2021

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Indigenous rights law inches forward and CSOs weigh in ahead of COP26

A proposed law to protect the rights of the Indigenous Pygmy Peoples, intended to redress the discrimination they have faced when protecting their culture and to strengthen their contribution to sustainable management of forests, was deemed admissible in Parliament, 5 June 2020, a significant step. To arrive at this point, Indigenous Peoples’ organisations waged a 10-year struggle, led by the Dynamique des groupes des peuples autochtones (DGPA), and Programme Intégré pour le Développement du Peuple Pygmée au Kivu (PIDP) within the national platform of Indigenous structures (REPALEF-RDC).They recently held an awareness-raising session for parliamentarians; among their demands: transparency, real involvement in political decisions likely to affect them and recognition of their rights to the land and natural resources at the heart of their culture. 

The proposal was transmitted to a joint commission (Political, Administrative, Legal; Social and Cultural; Human Rights) for analysis; the National Assembly adopted the report unanimously on 26 November 2020. The law’s final adoption on 7 December seemed certain, but on the day of the debate, another petition was presented − and passed − for the dismissal of the parliament president. The adoption process of Indigenous Peoples Law may be finalised by the end of the March-April 2021 session, but maybe delayed by the ongoing heated political quarrel over the parliament president. 

The review of NDCs and the difficulty of participating in the process remain of great concern. When CSOs tried to become involved, they discovered that the process was already underway – an inauspicious start. During a workshop organised by CEDEN, civil society validated a study on NDCs and forwarded a position paper to the government. They do not know whether the document sent to the UNFCCC secretariat incorporated their main positions. The climate focal point has twice promised to let them see the NDC road map; so far, no documents have been shared. 

CSOs are concerned about the coherence of programs relating to the NDCs. The matter is cross-sectoral, but is managed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which has no authority over other relevant ministries. To encourage coherence, CSOs would like to put the NDC process under the authority of the Prime Minister, so that climate policy is integrated into each sectoral policy, and inversely, so that other policies are guided by climate requirements. 

Fundamentally, CSOs would like the role of forests and governance to be amplified, but with strict respect for human rights, and specifically those of Indigenous Peoples, local communities (IPLCs) and women. CSOs wish to ensure that financial mechanisms are created to support the activities defined by the NDCs; on a practical basis, the IPLCs cannot implement climate related programmes without such support. 

Above all, participation must improve; these communities “do not want to be subjected to, but rather to participate in the formulation of the NDCs”. They wish to avoid programmes that are unrealistic − too bureaucratic, set up by external experts unfamiliar with the local situation, and are concerned that the government and private sector approach dialogue “in a cavalier manner”. Funding permitting, CSOs would like to take their message directly to the COP26. 

The same concerns are mirrored in preparations for the COP15 of the Convention on BiodiversityAichi targets, as translated into DRC’s national framework (4.2), set protected areas at 17 per cent; the post-2020 framework foresees a possible increase of these spaces to 30 per cent. Given the weak consultation framework, this prospect inspires genuine fear among the IPLCs about the violation of their customary rights and possible exclusion. They strongly wish to help shape other effective conservation solutions that build on their natural way of life and their deep traditional knowledge; a coherent approach that would protect biodiversity, forests and climate. 

From interviews with Joseph Itwonga, REPALEAC; and Pastor Matthieu Yela, CEDEN. 

Categorias: News, The Democratic Republic of Congo

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