By Chris Lang
In July 2021, Eve Bazaïba, the vice prime minister and environment minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, announced plans to lift a ban on new logging permits in the country. A group of environmental and human rights organisations has now written to the Inter-Donor Group for the Environment in the DRC (GIBE Groupe Inter-Bailleurs pour l’Environnement).
The letter, from Forest Peoples Programme, Global Witness, Greenpeace Africa, Minority Rights Group International, Rainforest Foundation Norway, and Rainforest Foundation UK, warns of “an impending climate and biodiversity catastrophe” if the moratorium is lifted.
“Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi made a promise in the last Virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate to expand forest protection. Months later, he voted for renewed industrial logging. International donors speak of Green plans in Brussels, London, or DC, while continuing to fund countries with policies that hurt local communities, accelerate mass extinction and warm up the planet. The Congolese people and the international community deserve more.”
Greenpeace has launched a petition against lifting the moratorium:
The letter states that,
There is nothing in the existing concession system to suggest why any credible international support programme to protect DRC’s forests would condone any expansion of it. Several multi-million dollar programmes in recent decades have failed to reform the forest/environment sector, which remains mired in political patronage, poor social practices and negligible benefits for local communities or the state coffers. To persevere with the now debunked notion that ‘selective’ logging can save tropical forests is dangerous folly. It is clear that opening up some of the world’s remaining intact tropical forests to more logging would be an unmitigated disaster for the climate, biodiversity and forest communities.
We would like ot underline that the CAFI-International NGO meeting on June 17th has not brought convincing answers on the specific matter of the moratorium. We were concerned that the Board seemed to consider a lifting of the moratorium as an unavoidable legal consequence, and at the same time did not give any indication on how the major risks and threats implied by a lifting of the moratorium would be efficiently addressed by the CAFI-DRC partnership. A summary of the meeting, including the questions asked by International NGOs prior to the meeting, has still not been published by CAFI.
The letter ends with a series of recommendations:
In order to avoid what would be a devastating blow to the credibility of international efforts to protect the world’s second largest tropical forest, we urge DRC’s international development partners to ensure that further support, including the signature of a new 20212030 CAFI LoI, is conditioned on:
- The completion of the legal review of all existing logging titles in DRC, not just those allocated since 2016, and the return to the state of all those shown to be illegal. This should also include a detailed and transparent audit of beneficial ownership of all existing concessions The TORs for the review should be revised as such and made publicly available.
- A clearly defined process of multi-sectoral and participatory land-use planning based on the strategic objective of protecting the integrity of the country’s intact tropical forests.
- The development of a participatory road map for the definition of a comprehensive forest policy and the revision of the Forest Code.
- Increased support for community forests as a mainstream forest management tool and major land use category in DRC.
- Passage and implementation of the Indigenous Pygmy Peoples law, with particular attention to securing indigenous pygmy peoples’ fundamental land and resource rights. The Government should also take steps to address and provide redress for the dispossession of Indigenous Pygmy Peoples’ lands effected prior to the law’s enactment.
PHOTO Credit: Greenpeace.