After 30 months of successful delivery of the Congo Basin VPA Implementation – Championing Forest Peoples Rights and Participation project in Cameroon and Central African Republic, the Centre for International Development and its project execution partners, organised a one day event at Hotel La Falaise in Yaoundé, Cameroon on the 23 June 2016 to mark the official completion of the action.
The project closing event was an opportunity for project partners to share the experiences, successes of the action and strategies developed to ensure sustainability of the project. Opening the project closing ceremony, the British High Commissioner to Cameroon H.E Brian Olley and the Vice Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton, Prof Geoff Layer both emphasised the role of forests to the wellbeing of forest dependent peoples in the Congo Basin and the place of the university in bringing about social, economic and cultural transformation in the two project countries.
Following the opening ceremony, project partners took turns to present project results, key achievements, challenges and actions undertaken to ensure the sustainability of the action. Overall, despite the social and political crisis in CAR which affected the start of the action in 2014, all the presentations showed that the project had been successful so far in making progress towards reaching its overall objective. In regards to the capacity building of CSOs, the project has had a positive impact on the level and quality of participating organizations. Overall, through civil society platforms there has been a considerable strengthening of civil society capacities. The level and quality of participation in the national VPA follow up committee has improved and been welcomed by most of the partners as well as beneficiaries.
As for the pooling of experience gained at the regional level, the project coordination has facilitated a series of follow up meetings between beneficiaries which have been very beneficial and have served to establish forms of collaboration between organizations for the implementation of activities, and especially an exchange between Cameroon and the CAR. Presentations were followed by a plenary session which provided the opportunity for more than 70 participants from private sector, government, indigenous peoples’ organisations, civil society organisations, traditional leaders and donors to engage with partners and share experiences and proposals for the future. Participants appreciated the improved role of civil society in monitoring forest governance, regional experience sharing and the improvements in academic curriculum introduced by the project. The project Manager Dr Aurelian Mbzibain, thanked all participants, partners, the European Union and the UK government through DFID for financial support towards the delivery of this action. The event ended with a family picture and a diner.
The following documentary video (in French) was played at this event and shows the project partners talking about the key achievements and activities.
Over 30 Delegates from Africa, Asia and Europe Converged in Brussels for the Biannual Meeting of the Community Rights Network from 11-15 April 2016
The event provided civil society representatives with a platform to share insights on progress and challenges facing forest management and forest peoples’ rights in their country including opportunities and improvements brought by the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) in a rapidly changing environment. The Community Rights Network (CRN) has been meeting every other year in Brussels to exchange ideas and experiences, and discuss strategies to improve forest governance in countries negotiating or implementing a VPA and beyond, also providing a space for dialogue between Southern civil society organisations and EU institutions.
This year’s edition offered much valued networking moments in addition to plenary and thematic sessions on the future of the FLEGT Action plan, transparency, independent forest monitoring, effective implementation of the VPAs, and collaboration between Southern and Northern NGOs. The event also sparked interest from the local media, with several journalists interviewing CRN delegates during a tour of a timber import company in Antwerp.
On 14 April, the CRN representatives had an opportunity to meet with officials from the European Commission and the European External Action Service to discuss the lessons learnt from their participation in these trade agreements’ negotiations and implementation. CRN delegates reaffirmed that VPAs are unique trade deals as they give civil society organisations a seat at the table to voice their concerns and defend the rights of forest communities and advocate for stronger and fairer forest legislation.
They have called on the European Commission to continue supporting civil society participation in its innovative trade deals with timber-producing countries. Guy N’Dakouzou from Centre pour l’Information Environnementale et le Développement Durable (CIEDD) in CAR stated that ‘VPAs have had an impact far beyond their remit. Because of the space provided by the agreement, civil society was able to organise and influence groundbreaking provisions on indigenous peoples rights and natural resource governance in CAR’s new constitution’. The solid dialogue of the European Commission confirms the CRN belief that local and international actors should learn from the VPA inclusive approach if they indeed want to cross new frontiers for effective governance.
In the coming weeks the independent evaluation of the VPAs which are part of the FLEGT Action Plan will be published. For the CRN, it is crucial to keep pursuing the objectives of this programme while acknowledging and tackling the challenges that have emerged since its inception. CIDT’s capacity Building Expert, Sarah Thomas, said that “we need to continue to strengthen CSOs capacities to monitor forest activities and forest governance in timber producing countries to ensure that local and indigenous peoples’ rights are protected and that livelihoods are improved”.
The CRN meeting was organized by Fern in collaboration with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) under the CIDT led – Congo Basin VPA Implementation Championing Forest Peoples Rights and Participation Project financed by the European Union and DFID.
Photos by FERN.
In December 2015, a review and planning meeting took place with the coordinating and implementing partners of the European Union (EU)-funded Championing Forest People’s Rights (CFPR) project in the Congo Basin. 18 participants took part in the meeting representing: CIDT (UK), Fern (Belgium), Forêt et Développement Rural (FODER – Cameroun), Maison de l’Enfant et la Femme Pygmée (MEFP – CAR), Centre pour l’Environnement et le Développement (CED – Cameroun), Centre pour l’Information Environnementale et de Développement Durable (CIEDD – CAR), Forest Peoples Program (FPP – Cameroun & UK).
Partners reviewed progress made to date in strengthening civil society organisations (CSOs) and civil society platforms as well as achievements made to improve the participation of forest people and CSOs in forest governance including the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA)/FLEGT process. This included an analysis and discussion of the preliminary results of the mid-term review.
The meeting also involved:
- Planning for the last 6-7 months of the project, including discussion of what final products would be helpful to the partners and beneficiaries (as well as future programs) in order to capture lessons learned and share the experience of the project over its 3-year life cycle; and
- Reflection/discussion on exit plans and sustainability strategies, to ensure that results attained to date can be sustained beyond the end of the project.
Images from the meeting
Parliamentarians and their technical assistants from the Parliamentarians network (REPAR-Cameroon – Réseau des Parlementaires pour la Gestion Durable des Ecosystèmes Forestiers d’Afrique centrale) received training on forest governance issues during a workshop organised in the South Region of Cameroon from the 22nd to the 24th of October, 2015. This initiative was a joint action between REPAR, Forêts et Développement Rural (FODER) (CIDT’s partner in Cameroon) and the University of Wolverhampton under the CIDT led ‘Congo Basin VPA Implementation – Championing Forest Peoples’ Rights and Participation’ project.
The objective of this workshop was to improve parliamentarian’s understanding and mastery of current forest governance challenges especially illegal forest exploitation and provide them with the tools and knowledge required to play their parliamentary roles effectively with regards to monitoring and legislating on issues related to the problem of illegal forest exploitation and trade in Cameroon.
During the three day event, 15 parliamentarians and their technical assistants were sensitised and capacities strengthened on the following forest governance issues: legal and regulatory frameworks, voluntary partnership agreements (FLEGT/VPAs), the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR), forest and wildlife control, wood traceability systems and management of forest information, etc.
At the end of the workshop, the parliamentarians expressed satisfaction for the joint collaboration and expressed the wish to see this continue long into the future. Parliamentarians also identified the need to put in place a forest oversight mechanism within the network. It is expected that once operational this mechanism will improve the capabilities of the network to oversee, monitor, hold government to account and contribute effectively towards the promotion of good governance in the management of the countries natural resources including benefits sharing derived from the exploitation of the resources.
Photos from the event
Seeing the Forests through the Trees: Project report reveals success of VPAs in combatting illegal logging
Illegal logging is directly connected to corruption, opacity, weak and unclear laws, compromised officials, and feeble institutions. It devastates communities, destroys the environment, denies tax revenue to governments and can trap countries in a cycle of poverty.
Research increasingly concludes that transparency is a key ingredient as it enables people depending on forests to get the information they need to have a say in decisions affecting them. A new report from Fern presents findings from civil society groups on the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) ‘transparency annexes’ in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ghana, Liberia, and the Republic of Congo.
The report reveals that implementation of VPAs has resulted in increased transparency including disclosure of information on forest concessions, logging permits, and production volumes. Liberia took important steps to enforce transparency laws and publish information on forest revenues, and Ghana made progress in making permits available in the public domain. Cameroon and the Republic of Congo launched online platforms giving access to some forest data. In the Central African Republic, though, transparency commitments are yet to materialise due to the recent conflict and ensuing instability.
With the information made available, groups working on forest governance have been able to denounce corruption and illegalities in Cameroon, Ghana and Liberia; influence law making in the Republic of Congo; and in some cases hold government and companies to account. In all five countries, however, governments have been slow in fully disclosing the information listed in their VPA transparency annex, and making it widely and systematically available especially to forest communities.
Further progress will depend on stronger political will, and the implementation of key measures, such as robust information management systems and effective communications strategies. To sustain gains, part of the challenge for governance advocates will be to stimulate the release of information and use it to hold governments to account. In that sense, the EU and its Member States have a role to play in supporting effective participation in VPA implementation.
The report is also available as a short presentation.
De l’ombre à la lumière: Rapport de projet révèle succès de APV dans la lutte contre l’exploitation illégale du bois
L’exploitation illégale du bois est favorisée par la corruption, l’opacité, des lois faibles et peu claires ainsi que par des fonctionnaires et institutions fragilisés. Elle nuit aux communautés, détruit l’environnement, prive l’État de recettes fiscales et peut enfermer les pays dans un cycle vicieux de pauvreté.
Des recherches de plus en plus nombreuses concluent que la transparence est un facteur essentiel pour permettre aux populations tributaires des forêts d’obtenir les informations dont elles ont besoin et avoir leur mot à dire dans les décisions qui les concernent. Ce nouveau rapport de Fern présente le regard des organisations de la société civile sur la mise en œuvre des « annexes sur la transparence » des Accords de partenariat volontaire (APV) au Cameroun, Ghana, Libéria, en République centrafricaine et en République du Congo.
Le rapport révèle que la mise en œuvre des APV a contribué à une transparence accrue à travers la divulgation d’informations sur les concessions forestières, les permis d’exploitation et les volumes produits. Le Libéria a pris des mesures importantes pour faire respecter la législation nationale en matière de transparence et publier des informations sur les revenus tirés de l’exploitation forestière. Au Ghana, des progrès ont été accomplis pour faire en sorte que l’ensemble des permis sont rendus publics. Le Cameroun et la République du Congo ont lancé des plateformes en ligne afin de permettre l’accès à certaines données sur le secteur forestier. En République centrafricaine, en revanche, les engagements en matière de transparence peinent à se matérialiser en raison du récent conflit et de l’instabilité qui a suivi.
Grâce à l’information disponible, les organisations œuvrant en faveur de la gouvernance forestière ont été en mesure de dénoncer la corruption et les pratiques illégales au Cameroun, au Ghana et au Libéria, d’influencer l’élaboration d’une nouvelle loi forestière en République du Congo et dans certains cas, de demander des comptes à leur gouvernement et aux entreprises. Dans les cinq pays, cependant, la divulgation complète par les gouvernements des informations énumérées à l’annexe sur la transparence des APV a été lente, tout comme leur mise à disposition systématique et leur large diffusion, en particulier auprès des communautés forestières.
Des progrès supplémentaires ne seront possibles que moyennant une volonté politique plus forte et des mesures clés telles que la mise sur pied de systèmes de gestion de l’information et de stratégies de communication efficaces. Afin de consolider les acquis, les organisations locales devront encourager la publication d’informations et les utiliser pour demander à leurs gouvernements et aux entreprises de rendre des comptes. L’Union européenne et ses États membres ont donc un rôle important à jouer pour appuyer la participation effective de tous les acteurs clés dans la mise en œuvre des APV.
Le rapport est également disponible en une courte présentation.