The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) have signed a letter of intent (LOI) awarding DRC US$200 million to preserve its forests and promote sustainable development.
DRC is the first of the six central African partners to sign an LOI. It focuses on addressing the drivers of forest loss in the DRC, including agricultural expansion, illegal logging, erratic land-use planning, infrastructure and mining – all good intentions, on paper. The signing seems to be independent of DRC threats to lift its moratorium on new industrial logging concessions (FW214), but it none-the-less coincides with mounting concerns from local NGOs about rampant illegality and widespread corruption in DRC’s forest sector.
Members of the Réseau des Ressources Naturelles (RRN), a civil society network, are concerned that donors are sending contradictory signals to the DRC government and to other countries working to fix forest governance challenges on the ground through FLEGT VPAs with the EU. Without genuine political will and proper multi-stakeholder oversight, RRN fears that the funds will not end up where they should: in effect, CAFI will give DRC a license for ‘bad’ business as usual.
As a first step, the government should uphold its commitments to put the forest sector in order, including maintaining the moratorium on new logging concessions and accelerating VPA negotiations. Only then will CAFI’s US$200 million be meaningful for DRC’s forests and forest people, and set a course for other countries, such as the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo, that have signed on to the initiative (FW212).