in DR Congo, Norway

Norway is “throwing money out of the window” in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Norway has spent NOK 1 billion on saving the rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But deforestation in DRC is increasing rapidly. On 12 May 2018, Dagsrevyen, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s daily news programme reported on Norway’s failure to address deforestation in DRC.

For Norwegian speakers, the news piece is available here. Two articles are also available, here and here.

A rough translation of the news piece is posted below (made using Google Translate – REDD-Monitor welcomes any corrections to the translation).

Inger Marit Kolstadbråten, a journalist with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, interviewed Ole Elvestuen, Norway’s Climate and Environment Minister, for the news piece. Elvestuen tells her that,

“The main reason for the deforestation in Congo is poverty, shifting cultivation, charcoal production and population increase.”

It is telling that Elvestuen makes no mention of the impact of industrial logging on the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite the fact that DRC recently announced plans to lift the country’s 16-year-old moratorium on new logging concessions.

In March 2018, more than 50 environmental and human rights organisations wrote to key donor governments and agencies, including Norway, UK, France, USA, and the World Bank, calling on them to suspend funding immediately to the DRC government for forestry and forest conservation.

Here is the translation of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation news piece:

Nina Owing (presenter): Norway has paid NOK 1 billion to Congo. Money to be spent on saving the rainforest. But it turns out that deforestation is increasing. Critics believe Norway has thrown hundreds of millions out of the window.

Inger Marit Kolstadbråten (journalist): She makes the oven ready for the pot. Charcoal is a fuel for millions of Congolese people.

Micheline Kebe (small restaurant owner in Kinshasa): I use charcoal when cooking, because the electricity is unstable here.

Kolstadbråten: For charcoal, rainforest is harvested. Deforestation in Congo has increased dramatically in recent years – for several reasons. Even though Norway has paid almost NOK 1 billion to maintain the rainforest.

Since 2009, NOK 404 million has been paid to the project via the UN and others. NOK 582 million has been paid for programs that have not yet started. In total, NOK 986 million.

Much has gone on improving conditions for indigenous peoples and to fight poverty. But Norway is facing criticism from several sides for its money spent in Congo.

Christian Nellemann (Director, Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, RHIPTO): It’s throwing money right out of the window if you do not focus on the places where deforestation is greatest.

Irene Wabiwa Betoko (Greenpeace Africa): Forests laws are even violated by the highest authorities of the country.

Simon Counsell (Rainforest Foundation UK): Most of the money that has actually been spent has been absorbed by those international agencies themselves, rather than hitting the ground and benefitting the communities.

Kolstadbråten: Millions are fleeing from war in the east of the country. Money from illegal logging and the production of charcoal helps keep the war going. Political instability and mismanagement has dominated the country for decades.

She works for Greenpeace and has uncovered illegal logging permits issued by three environmental ministers.

Irene Wabiwa Betoko (Greenpeace Africa): The DRC forest sector is still out of control. The governance is almost non-existant. Impunity is the rule for the forest sector.

Kolstadbråten: When new illegal logging permits were revealed in February, Norway stopped payments and demanded that the licenses be revoked. It’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Every time an improvement is promised. And Norway continues to pay big sums.

Irene Wabiwa Betoko (Greenpeace Africa): Norway has continued sending money to the DRC based on the promise that these illegalities would not be repeated. But nothing has been taken as action to sanction this kind of action.

Kolstadbråten: He has made several reports for the UN and Interpol on environmental crime.

Christian Nellemann (Director, Norwegian Center for Global Analysis, RHIPTO): The greatest deforestation takes place in the war zones in Congo.

Kolstadbråten: He believes Norway is using the wrong medicine.

Christian Nellemann: What is needed is a targetted effort towards the surrounding areas where deforestation is the greatest – deforestation driven by criminals and rebel groups.

Kolstadbråten: Climate and Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen agrees that more must be done to bring the perpertrators to justice. But he defends Norway’s spending.

Ola Elvestuen (Climate and Environment Minister): It is difficult to get results. The main reason for the deforestation in Congo is poverty, shifting cultivation, charcoal production and population increase. We must have a broad approach to achieving a reduction of deforestation in Congo.

Kolstadbråten: Transparency International: Congo is one of the world’s most corrupt countries. Norwegian money is not transferred to the government, but to the United Nations and the World Bank. And from there to countless organisations.

This overview shows the organisations involved in order to implement projects in a Congo region. This has been criticized in Norad’s evaluation and by environmental organisations.

Simon Counsell: What this means of course is that there are very high administrative and running costs for those programs and in fact so far most of the money that has actually been spent has been absorbed by those international agencies themselves, rather than hitting the ground and benefitting the communities in the forest that really need that support.

Kolstadbråten: The Climate and Environment Ministry admits that there have been mistakes along the way. Several programs in Congo have been extensive and costly.

Has it been correct to spend over NOK 1 billion when the results are so low?

Ola Elvestuen: Whether each of them has been appropriate must be continuously evaluated. But to have a commitment in Congo, one of the world’s most important forest countries, a country in crisis, with poverty, conflict, needing broad support, and to keep the forest, that is the right thing to do.

Kolstadbråten: The future of the world’s second largest rainforest is important for the whole world.


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