in DR Congo, Norway

Norway, REDD and corruption in DR Congo: “Risks of corruption will threaten the implementation of REDD+ in DRC”

In November 2011, PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that “The implementation of REDD+ in DRC will face numerous challenges because of the widespread nature of corruption in the country”. As in all other sectors, PwC added, corruption is “likely to be ever present”.

PwC’s report, “Implementing REDD+ in the Democratic Republic of Congo: How to manage the risk of corruption” (pdf file 3.7 MB), was commissioned by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

“Risks of corruption will threaten the implementation of REDD+ in DRC in all of the phases,” PwC states in the report and notes that,

In fact, a number of politicians, including those in the government circles and Parliament, as well as high-ranking civil servants, are currently engaged in industrial and artisanal logging. Congolese armed forces are also involved in mining, and some of the mines that they operate are situated in forested areas. Investors are also increasingly interested in agribusiness in DRC. Oil companies are also vying for contracts to explore oil in forested zones. Many are these investors are also business associates of politicians on whose protection they rely. It is therefore likely that such individuals or groups of people would be keen to influence the design of the national REDD+ framework for their private gain.

In October 2012, Global Witness reported that industrial logging companies were abusing “Artisanal Logging Permits” in order to bypass DR Congo’s freeze on new logging concessions announced in 2002. “The Congolese authorities have been routinely breaking their own laws when handing out these logging permits,” says Colin Robertson of Global Witness.

Two months later, the International Monetary Fund halted a US$532 million loan programme to DR Congo over concerns with transparency in the country’s mining sector. Global Witness commented that “concerns over possible corruption in the country’s mining sector were so serious that the IMF was justified in stopping its lending”.

Lars Ekman, a senior adviser in NORAD, has spent 10 years in Africa including two years in Kinshasha where he supported and facilitated PwC’s November 2011 corruption report. At a seminar in Norway in 2012, Ekman told the following story to show that “corruption threats are very real” for REDD in DR Congo:

“One Sunday morning in Kinshasa, I was asked by a person to come and meet him and pick up a brown envelope. There was no money in there, but a very interesting document that this person wanted to have action upon. It was a draft contract between a known businessman in Kinshasa and the government, the Ministry of Forestry and Environment. The contract proposal was a 25 year monopoly right to market carbon offsets from an area of 50 million hectares, which is about one-third of the forest area of Congo.
“There was a lot of pressure on the Ministry, because this businessman, who had a track record in the diamond industry in the Congo, had a very good relation with the President’s office. So there was some considerable pressure.
“What we did was to send a message jointly, us and UN-REDD and the World Bank that the REDD pilot in DRC would be off called, cancelled, if this contract was signed. I don’t know whether it was signed or not, but it hasn’t been live so to speak and had any direct affect.”

While this story provides a fascinating glimpse into corruption in DR Congo, it also raises several questions. On 15 November 2012 (and again on 29 November 2012), REDD-Monitor sent the following questions to Lars Ekman. So far, Ekman has not replied. Should he do so, I look forward to posting his response.

UPDATE – 7 February 2013: Ekman replied on 6 February 2013. His response can be read here.

1. Transparency is essential when dealing with corruption issues. Did you make a copy of the draft contract available publicly? Do you still have a copy of the contract and if so, could you please send me a copy?
2. You say that the draft contract is between a “known businessman in Kinshasa” and the government. Who is the “known businessman”? Was the “known businessman” one of the Blattner family?

[UPDATE – 24 January 2013: See the comment from Brandon Blattner below.]

3. Is the message that NORAD, UN-REDD and the World Bank sent to the DR Congo government publicly available? If not, why not?
4. Did NORAD, UN-REDD or the World Bank react in a similar way with any other REDD projects in DR Congo? For example, when Shift2Neutral, Ecosystem Restoration Associates or Conservation International set up (or attempted to set up) REDD projects in DRC.
5. Did NORAD, UN-REDD or the World Bank react when McKinsey drew up its report on REDD in DRC in five weeks (a report that spectacularly failed to address the serious governance and corruption problems in DRC)?
6. I think it’s almost certainly good that NORAD, UN-REDD and the World Bank reacted to the draft contract you received, particularly as it covered such a large area. My concern however, is that the action did not really address corruption in any meaningful way. Couldn’t the same “known businessman” set up another REDD type project (or any other type of project) using his contacts in the government, just being more careful the next time about who gets to hear about the proposal before it is signed?


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  1. I happen to be part of the “Blattner family” and am very intrigued as to why you associate my family with this sort of behavior, especially when linking to a story of my uncle that tells of the success of his ventures and says nothing of “envelopes” (nor carbon credits for that matter, considering your link is 25 years old…literally).

    If you’re curious about the Blattner family and its operations please try to contact them first before slandering them on your website; the most foolish part about the whole thing is that if you actually did your research you’d learn that the Blattner family is doing more for REDD+ as a legitimate institution than any other entity in the DRC, and that’s a fact.

    Feel free to contact me, but in the meantime please remove the slanderous accusations and associations off of your website before I seek a cease and desist – we’ve worked way too hard (toward the same cause for which you fight!) to have our efforts derailed by websites like your own that give off an impression that it is real journalism when in reality it’s just a website that generalizes on facts, fishes for controversy and makes groundless assumptions so that you can sit at home and watch your google analytics statistics every afternoon.

    I apologize for the negative tone, but, again, next time do your research – there’s enough problems in this system as it stands such that we don’t need the people who are trying to make things better accused as the opposite.


  2. An interesting question would be to know what NORAD, UN-REDD and the World Bank have been doing in the REDD pilot phase to promote models for addressing governance and corruption beyond BAU.The issue goes beyond policy papers and repetition of understandings long known.

    While much of REDD is premised on landscape or site specific actions, presumably models generated in the pilot phase include a suite of activities to create the ability for Congolese actors to understand, address, and effectively mitigate corruption such that it does not undermine REDD.

    What are those catalyzing the pilot phase of activities doing in this regard? How will it differ operationally from past actions that stick at the level of principles and nostrums? What is the mix of policy and practical efforts to combat corruption at the so-called ‘grand’ level, versus the more common administrative (some refer to it as ‘petty’ even though it is hardly is not that for those daily affected by it) corruption?

    For the latter there was once a quite successful USAID project from the mid-2000s that could well inform how implementing agencies could consider addressing local level administrative corruption all to likely to undermine REDD, were people seriously interested in getting their hands dirty to achieve the lofty and challenging objectives REDD has set for itself. See

  3. @Brandon Blattner – Thanks for getting in touch, but I suggest you should re-read the post. A question is not an accusation. I asked Lars Ekman a question about a “known businessman” in Kinshasha: Was the “known businessman” one of the Blattner family? Ekman could have answered either yes or no. Instead he has not replied. I’ve put an update, including a link to your comment, in the post.

    (The point of the link to the 1989 article in the New York Times was to illustrate the long history of the Blattner family’s involvement in DR Congo.)

    I would love to hear more about what the Blattner family is doing for REDD “as a legitimate institution” and why you consider that this is more than, say, Conservation International, Ecosystem Restoration Associates, NORAD, UN-REDD, the World Bank, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, WWF, Rainforest Foundation Norway, or Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, to name a few of the international organisations involved in REDD in DR Congo.

    In early 2012, Groupe Blattner Elwyn bought SIFORCO, a massive logging operation in DR Congo, from the Danzer Group. Greenpeace commented on the purchase as follows:

    Danzer’s operations in the DRC will be taken over by Groupe Blattner Elwyn. Other members of the Blattner family are involved in the logging sector via Safbois in Orientale province. In 2008 Greenpeace reported on Safbois’ illegal logging activities and social conflicts in Yafunga. GBE has been involved in infrastructure and agribusiness, amongst other activities.

    GBE has – as far as we know – not yet released information on their plans, but according to Danzer, they “intend to follow our industrial and forest management concept”.

    What this really means is unclear at this point. But the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has told Greenpeace that GBE will not pursue FSC certification of sustainable forest management or controlled wood. The existing certificates were immediately cancelled on GBE’s request.

    We have little hope that the forest and its people will be better off with GBE.

    Why did GBE immediately cancel the existing FSC certificates? And could you please explain why you believe that the Blattner family’s involvement in the logging sector in DR Congo is part of “doing more for REDD+ … than any other entity in the DRC”, or how logging the country’s forests is part of “trying to make things better”.