The international community is turning its attention to the plight of the Central African Republic (CAR), after decades of neglect. The CAR state is so weak that almost everything needs to be rebuilt, and the fragile situation on the ground means great caution is needed to ensure that efforts can be sustained. At an international donor conference in Brussels, 26 May 2015, the EU pledged to boost its support to CAR, including contributing additional funds to Fonds Bêkou, a multi-donor trust fund set up to help the country out of the crisis. The fund is helping forest communities to recover from the conflict, inter alia, and it is hoped that further support will be provided so that they have a stronger say in CAR’s future.
But as the EU agrees to step up its humanitarian aid, the danger is that deep-seated governance problems, including in forests, will not receive adequate attention. In a recent letter, the CAR civil society platform GDRNE called on the EU and the CAR government to revive the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process and support an audit of the forest sector. This is in line with the Bangui Reconciliation Forum’s recommendations for how to achieve more transparent and accountable governance of CAR’s natural resources.
Just as the fight to control natural resources has contributed to the crisis, improved governance in the forest sector is crucial to the resolution of CAR’s current disarray. By awakening a dormant VPA process and offering sustained support to legal reform, the EU now has the opportunity to make a huge difference to the people of CAR.