Call for ‘phased approach’ to new community forests at historic gathering

Nearly 100 representatives of civil society, international NGOs and donors, the Ministère de l’Environnement, Conservation de la Nature et Développement Durable (MECNDD), Ministère de l’Aménagement du Territoire, Urbanisme et Habitat (MATUH) and various other members of the Congolese administration and private sector met in Kinshasa, October 13, to lay the groundwork for a new national community forest strategy in DRC.Community Forests TN

With the final pieces of legal framework for community forests in DRC expected to be finalised in the near future[1], this could be one of the most significant and pressing policy developments in tropical forests of recent years – potentially impacting millions of forest dwellers and up to tens of millions of rainforest yet to be allocated for other purposes. A recent briefing and research study carried out by RFUK found there to be real legal innovations on the rights of local communities but also potential loopholes which could lead to elite capture and other perverse outcomes, particularly in the absence of a strong forest administration.

Key stakeholders convened at the inaugural roundtable meeting to begin a process of addressing these risks and opportunities. The meeting, which was facilitated by Cercle d’Appui à la Gestion Durable des Forêts (CAGDFT), the World Resources Institute and Rainforest Foundation UK, found there was widespread consensus on a range of issues, including the need for a ‘lesson-learning’ and phased approach to the development of community forestry in order to foster best practices, build the necessary institutions and to strengthen links with other reform processes.

An advisory group, consisting of the meeting facilitators, the Community Forest Department and Legal Cell of MECNDD, Congolese NGOs RRN and CODELT and GIZ, – which could be extended to relevant key actors – has now been mandated to draft an outline national community forest strategy. These will be presented at the next roundtable meeting, scheduled for early 2016.

Closing the first meeting, Director Vundu, Head of Legal Cell, representing the General Secretary of MECNDD concluded that “I am satisfied because the roundtable reached its main objective, which was to gather all the actors around a table to debate issues essential to the community forestry process development”. See the final report here. 1ère_TRMA_FC_Communiqué_Final

[1] On August 2nd 2014, the government passed into law decree 14/1018 fixing the modalities for attributing local ‘community forest concessions’, enacting Article 22 of 2002 Forest Code. Community forest decree can be found here. The final implementation orders for the allocation and management of community forest concessions are expected to be passed in the near future.