In May 2019, the Congolese NGO Action pour la promotion et protection des peoples et espèces menacés (APEM) wrote to the coordinator of the World Bank’s Forest Investment Programme in the Democratic Republic. The letter followed a civil society monitoring mission of three REDD projects in Mai Ndombe province that was carried out in September and October 2018.
The monitoring mission found that the REDD projects are not operating with the safeguards that are supposedly in place to protect local communities’ and indigenous peoples’ rights. Communities are often unaware of what REDD is, and in many cases have not given their consent to REDD projects on their land.
This should not come as a surprise. In March 2012, staff from Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and Cercle pour la defense de l’environnement (CEDEN) travelled to Mai Ndombe to find out more about what is now the Wildlife Works Carbon REDD project.
FPP and CEDEN found that, “none of the communities had been informed about what the carbon market actually is, or how it works”. Communities were not told what the impacts of the project might be on their livelihoods. At least one community refused to collaborate with the REDD project.
Six years after FPP and CEDEN visited Mai Ndombe, communities remain largely unaware of what REDD is. You can read about the 2018 report resulting from the monitoring mission here.
Here’s a rough translation of the declaration attached to APEM’s letter, summarising the findings of the monitoring report, and with a list of six recommendations:
Declaration of Environmental Civil Society on the REDD+ Process in Mai Ndombe addressed to the FIP and FCPF
We, actors of the environmental civil society gathered at the initiative of the NGO Action pour la promotion et protection des peoples et espèces menacés (APEM) working to monitor the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples living in and around the area of the REDD+ jurisdictional program Mai Ndombe.
After various field missions to the PIREDD Plateau implemented by WWF and the WWC concession in Mai-Ndombe we found:
- Communities have not been sufficiently informed about REDD+;
- REDD+ managers did not obtain free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from communities prior to the establishment of the programme;
- The selective participation of community representatives in Local Development Committees (CLDs), at the Steering Committee (COPIL), without community legitimacy;
- Failure to take customary land rights into account, preventing communities from claiming their rights to carbon;
- Failure to respect the commitments made in the framework of the various signed protocols between the project promoters and the communities concerned;
- Misappropriation of funds for REDD+ activities on the ground that prevents equitable sharing of benefits.
In light of the above, we ask for the following:
- Ensure that each community involved in the process is fully informed and sensitised about the REDD+ process;
- To document the FPIC obtained from the communities in accordance with the methodology established by Decree no. 026 of 8 November 2017;
- Restructure the Local Development Committees in a participatory way and strengthen their capacities so that they fully play their role in representing the communities;
- Support the review of the REDD+ approval decree for a new decree to: i) mandate the REDD+ process to take into account the customary land rights of local communities and indigenous peoples; and ii) allow the communities to be the leaders of REDD+ projects and thus to have direct access to carbon payments;
- Make a complaint and appeal mechanism operational in each project and sensitise communities on its functioning and referral;
- Demand that REDD+ funds be distributed transparently, equitably, and arrive in the field (villages) through actions that deliver tangible benefits (excluding carbon benefits) to local communities and indigenous peoples; especially through community forestry.
Kinshasa, May 21, 2019