• EU-CFPR project closing event highlights key achievements and experiences

    15 August 2016
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    EUCFPR closing event

    EUCFPR closing event

    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.

    Project documentary

    The following documentary video (in French) was played at this event and shows the project partners talking about the key achievements and activities.

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  • 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

    22 April 2016
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    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.

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    Photos by FERN.

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  • 10th Forest Governance Forum takes place in Cameroon

    12 April 2016
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    FGF CameroonFGF Cameroon
    From 16-18 March 2016, the 10th edition of the Forest Governance Forum took place in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Organised by the Centre for International Development and Training – CIDT of the University of Wolverhampton, UK, the forum took place under the centre’s ‘Congo Basin VPA ‘Implementation: Championing Forest People’s Rights and Participation’ project.

    Inspired by the Chatham House Illegal logging meetings, the multi-stakeholder event brought together around 200 participants and regional and global speakers from not only the forestry sector, but also from government, civil society, trade and industry, the NGO community and the academic world to discuss the contemporary trends, debates and issues characterising the FLEGT process. A key purpose of the FGF was to draw out and share key lessons from the VPA process and FLEGT implementing countries and to emphasise FLEGT progress and achievements to date.

    The three day event was broken down into six sessions covering issues of:

    • FLEGT updates
    • Transparency and corruption
    • The role of monitoring in improving forest governance
    • Tackling climate change
    • FLEGT and certification
    • Trade and inclusive engagement.

    The opening ceremony, saw speeches given by Mrs. Koulsoumi Alhadji epsé Boukar, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Forest and Wildlife, the British High Commissioner to Cameroon, H.E. Brian Olley and the Ambassador of the European Union to Cameroon, H.E. Françoise Collet.

    At the opening address, H.E. Brian Olley, British High Commissioner to Cameroon said As we have heard from some of the speakers before me we now recognise that the secret to success in protecting forests is to engage with the ‘spirit’ of the forest and the ‘spirit’ of the people. It is for that I am so pleased to see so many indigenous people from forest communities participating in the conference.”

    A key highlight on the first day was an interactive panel discussion, which saw a highly dynamic and heated discussion on the question ‘where does FLEGT go from here?’ The panel discussion gave the floor to the audience and allowed for some interesting points to be raised. One community leader stressed, how there was much more work to be done at grassroots level to ensure inclusion of forest communities and that FLEGT was still an evolving concept and has a long way to go in tackling illegal timber.”  Others emphasised the need to have more government and private sector involvement.

    A second highlight of the forum was the working group sessions. This formed a critical part of the FGF and focused on six thematic areas: gender, academia, monitoring, proposal writing, tenure rights and benefit sharing. One of the key lessons shared from the gender working group is the need to mainstream and integrate gender into the VPA process and FLEGT policies. The moderator Cecile Ndjbet declared how majority of forestry actors are women yet are ignored or marginalised in the policy frameworks.”

    Find out more

    At the Forest Governance Forum website you can listen to the presentations and download the slideshows, as well as see photos and videos from the event.

    Photos from the event

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  • CIDT and partners facilitate a regional experience-sharing and capacity development workshop for national civil society platforms working toward improving forest governance and natural resources management in west and central Africa

    21 December 2015
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    Regional exchange visit field trip

    Twenty representatives of five national civil society (CS) platforms from Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast came together for one week of experience-sharing, lesson-learning and capacity development earlier this month in Kribi, Cameroon.

    The ultimate aim of this gathering was to improve participation of forest communities, including indigenous people, in the process of negotiating and implementing Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) for the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme of the European Union (EU). The civil society organizations’ ability to successfully attain this objective depends largely on the effective functioning of the CS platforms to which they belong. This event therefore provided an important learning and capacity development opportunity for platforms in various countries.

    During a five-day workshop, the participants exchanged experiences and shared lessons about a range of topics, including: how to set up, operate and maintain an effective platform, including resource mobilization strategies, communication strategies, and negotiation approaches; tips for getting a place at the table, making valuable contributions to national dialogue, and successfully influencing policy that affects forest people; and practical strategies for achieving the platform’s vision and objectives related to protection of human rights (especially those of indigenous people and forest communities), promotion of sustainable forest governance, and prevention of illegal logging. The workshop also included awareness-promoting and skills-building sessions on leadership, representation, communications, conflict management, and sustainability of platforms. It was followed by one day of field visits in the Kribi area, where participants observed: the impact of large scale infrastructure projects on forests and in forest communities; independent forest monitoring actions by civil society; and artisanal logging systems and the local domestic market.

    The event was organized by the Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT) and its local partners, FODER (Forêts et Développement Rural) and the Community and Forest Platform of Cameroon, as part of the EU-funded, CIDT- managed Championing Forest People’s Rights and Participation Project (CFPR) in the Congo Basin. The field visits were organized by CEDLA (le Centre pour l’Environnement et le Développement Local Alternatif) and APED (l’Appui à la Protection de l’Environnement et le Développement); and the following collaborators contributed to the workshop sessions: Fern; Well Grounded; and MINADEV Consulting.

    Images from field visit with forest people

    Images from workshop in Kribi

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  • EU project partner meetings held

    21 December 2015
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    CFPR Coordination meeting December 2015

    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:

    1. 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
    2. 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

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  • CIDT and its partner FODER provide capacity building support to Cameroonian lawmakers

    8 November 2015
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    CIDT and its partner FODER provide capacity building support to Cameroonian lawmakers

    CIDT and its partner FODER provide capacity building support to Cameroonian lawmakersParliamentarians 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

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  • Building capacity for civil society led forest monitoring in Central African Republic

    6 November 2015
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    Building capacity for civil society led forest monitoring in Central African Republic

    The Central African Republic (CAR) is a landlocked country with about 4.6 million people. The country has a large environmental potential but years of socio-political crises have led to degradation and forest destruction with detrimental effects on the livelihoods of forest dependent communities. Additionally the contribution of the forest sector to national growth is therefore being undermined. The government has signed up the voluntary partnership agreements (FLEGT VPA) with the European Union to promote forest law enforcement, governance and trade in sustainably sourced time in a bid to reduce illegality in the country’s forest sector.

    Civil society has an important role to play in monitoring the forest sector and commitments taken by the government. Unfortunately, civil society is weak and do not have the technical, financial and material resources to play this role effectively. It is for this reason the University of Wolverhampton (Centre for International Development and Training) and its partner in Central African Republic, CIEDD are strengthening the capabilities of civil society actors in forest monitoring through the EU-DFID funded “Congo Basin VPA Implementation – Championing Forest Peoples Rights and Participation” Project.

    Following a national study on the state of transparency in the country’s forest sector, CIDT and its partner CIEDD organised a national training for 12 independent forest observers at the Institut Supérieur de Développement Rural (ISDR), M’Baiki in the Central African Republic. Participants received theoretical and practical training from experts on techniques for data collection, analysis and reporting on forest operations. Experts from our partner FODER Cameroon and the Ministry of environment and nature protection provided training on legal frameworks, legality assurance systems and geographic information systems. Field visits were organised to forest exploitation sites operated by IFB and SCAD companies during which participants were given the opportunity to learn from the company directors about forest exploitation and also to apply forest monitoring skills and tools. The project has provided graduates with necessary material required to carry out forest monitoring activities including GPSs, tape recorders, digital cameras, and other field equipment.

    The first promotion of independent observers named “MUKULUNGU” promotion was presented to national stakeholders during a national event on the 03rd November, 2015 at Ledger Plaza Hotel. Participants included members of the national civil society platform, indigenous community leaders, forest exploitation companies, members of the diplomatic corps and media. The meeting was presided over by the Director of Cabinet in the Ministry of Forest economy, environment and tourism who lauded the efforts of civil society, technical and financial partners and offered government’s continuous support and efforts to reduce illegality in the country’s forest sector.

    Key links

    Listen to an interview with CIDT’s partner in Central African Republic. [Source link]

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  • Workshop to verify findings on the state of Forestry Governance in curricular across Cameroon

    8 September 2015
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    Forest Governance workshop with universities in Cameroon

    Academic institutions have a significant role to play with regards to improving forest governance and sustainable growth in Cameroon through training of forest sector professionals, continuous professional development and research.

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  • Seeing the Forests through the Trees: Project report reveals success of VPAs in combatting illegal logging

    7 May 2015
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    FERN project report

    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.

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    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.

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