In the Central African Republic (CAR), hundreds of representatives from armed groups, political parties, civil society and the religious communities met at the Bangui Forum from 4 - 12 May 2015. The Forum, which received support from the EU, was an important milestone for promoting peace and reconciliation and preparing the country’s first general elections since the 2013 military coup.
Over the last two years, the collapse of state institutions and prevailing insecurity has left the forest sector and the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process in limbo (FW 195, FW 189). Illegal logging and lost revenues were not the only impact on governance. According to Global Witness, some logging companies colluded with CAR’s armed groups to export ‘blood timber.’ Fern’s CAR partner CIEDD warned that artisanal logging became increasingly anarchic, posing a threat to sustainable and inclusive management of forests.
Despite the crisis, local civil society groups have continued to advocate for forest communities’ rights using the ongoing constitutional review process to make their voices heard. The Bangui Forum provided an important opportunity to discuss the multiple governance issues facing CAR.The plateforme pour la Gestion Durable des Forêts et des Ressources Naturelles (GDRNE), the local civil society forest platform, was represented at the Forum and pleaded for stronger and faster implementation of CAR’s VPA so that early gains can be strengthened.Some civil society recommendations where taken on board by the Forum including an audit of logging contracts and the forest sector, and the strengthening of indigenous peoples’ rights. These will be further discussed by the government as work on the new constitution continues.