11th Forest Governance Forum, Brazzaville 2018

FGF Brazzaville 2018

The 11th Forest Governance Forum took place from 30-31 October 2018 at Hotel Ledger, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.

The 11th Forest Governance Forum (FGF) was the first forum to be held under the EU-funded CV4C project.

The event contributed to the wider aims of the CV4C project through experience sharing, networking and raising awareness, and raising the profile of FLEGT-VPA, land use change, REDD+, participatory forestry and other relevant policy processes in the Congo Basin.

The 11th edition of the FGF is organised in collaboration with the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) as part of the CBFP Streams on forest governance, REDD+ and Land Use in preparation for the high level conference of parties meeting on 26th November 2018 in Brussels. Recommendations from the forum fed into and informed the political level negotiations between parties.

The Forum received financial support from the CV4C project, co-funded by the European Union and the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID). Three hundred participants from the Congo Basin countries, civil society organisations, international organisations, donors, representatives from research institutions and private sector organisations were present.

Journal covers

Key documents and links

Opening ceremony

The opening ceremony was highlighted by five speeches:

  • Grégoire KOUFFA, Chair of the Board of Directors of CAGDF
  • Professor Rachel Slater, representative of the University of Wolverhampton
  • Gervais ITSOUA MADZOU, Deputy Executive Secretary of COMIFAC
  • Claude BOCHU, the representative of the European Union Delegation
  • Rosalie Matondo, Her Excellency the Minister of Forest Economy of the Republic of Congo.

Mr. Grégoire KOUFFA expressed sincere thanks to the Authorities of the Republic of Congo, and to the President of the Republic of Congo, His Excellency Mr. Denis SASSOU NGUESSO in particular, for his proven leadership on environmental issues.

Professor Rachel Slater warmly welcomed participants and expressed heartfelt thanks to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Forest Economy, COMIFAC, the CBFP and other event partners including the US Forest Services, the FAO, the ATIBT, the Proforest & Rainforest Alliance, the WRI , CLIENT EARTH, and Conservation Justice.

Mr. Gervais ITSOUA MADZOU,on behalf of theCentral African ForestsCommission,expressed thanks for associating COMIFAC with this important meeting. Citing recent climate change studies, he indicated that we are already living with the consequences of global warming, and that the forest is one of the least expensive solutions. After updating on recent COMIFAC developments, he highlighted the importance of international cooperation.

Mr. Claude BOCHU recalled the two main thrusts of European policy in support of forest governance: mitigation and adaptation activities to global warming through the REDD + process; and the creation of opportunities for economic growth and trade in the field of exploitation of forest resources.

Mrs. Rosalie MATONDO, on behalf of Prime Minister Mr. Clément MOUAMBA, welcomed participants and noted that the choice of Republic of Congo for this event is proof of the recognition of the efforts made by the country in the implementation of forest policies leading to good practices in this sector. She noted that Congo has resolutely engaged in a dynamic of responsible and inclusive management of its forest resources thanks to the impetus given by His Excellency Mr. Denis SASSOU NGUESSO, Head of State, and President of the Republic of Congo.

Listen to a recording of the opening ceremony.

Session 1: An overview of the state of Forest Governance in the region and beyond

Participants took note of COMIFAC’s urgent commitment to conduct a systematic review of forest governance in Central Africa. COMIFAC offered to collaborate with the EU for better monitoring of VPA-FLEGT and ensure its extension to other Member States. Participants noted the significant progress of VPA-FLEGT. Almost all Panel member countries confirmed that the VPA-FLEGT is a robust, relevant and highly value-added process in the state’s governance function for good governance in Central Africa.

All challenges encountered so far are primarily in the technical field. Beyond these challenges, reviews of the VPA-FLEGT have reinforced the process and better refined its implementation. The issue of political will does not seem to be a handicap in the process and the commitment of States and parties seems to be without doubt.

There is a need for better coherence and coordination between different sectors and the Administrations, in order to better optimise the commitment of actors in the process. Congo indicated to have found a possible solution to these inconsistencies.

It is essential that there is a shift in the perception of the sub-regional actors of the VPA FLEGT not as a process coming from the outside but as a clean, internal tool. To this effect, Central African countries must lead by example by consuming legal timber.

Listen to a recording of Session 1.

Session 2: VPA and Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) implementation

In this session it was noted that VPAs are a robust system for improving governance. Indonesia, which has been issuing FLEGT licenses since 2016, and the Republic of Congo, which is in the process of implementing the VPA, presented their respective systems. These systems and dynamic Independent Monitoring using quality standards are the keys to guarantee the transparency and credibility of VPA countries. The identified challenges are of a technical, financial and economic nature. Identified strengths include the involvement of all stakeholders as well as improved regulations and transparency. Discussions highlighted the importance of all stakeholder participation, reforms to improve the system, intersectoral coordination, quality of systems and transparency.

Listen to a recording of session 2.

Session 3: Promoting Transparency and Public Procurement Policies – FLAG

In this session it was noted that transparency is guaranteed by the legal frameworks of Congo Basin countries, particularly through the right to information, but its implementation remains partial. The legality of exploitation remains low, as shown by analysis independent monitoring reports. In a changing context it is urgent to improve the transparency and availability of information for European buyers.

Independent monitoring is an essential tool for ensuring transparency, but impact is limited as importers and competent authorities have little or no access to reports, and because follow-up by administration is non-existent. It is urgent to work to improve dissemination and visibility and to implement regular monitoring mechanisms.

Many practical tools exist to improve transparency, such as OTP and SPOTT. Governments are encouraged to lead by example in developing public policies for the purchase of legal timber. It is essential to put in place incentives for the private sector.

Listen to a recording of session 3.

Session 4: Panel on Regional Legal Frameworks and Reform Processes – ClientEarth

International processes currently underway in some African countries provide opportunities to review forest sector legal frameworks to reduce illegal logging and emissions from deforestation, improve governance and the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples whose livelihoods depend on forests.

Discussions highlighted several relevant factors including the important role palyed by the law in ecologically sustainable development. Countries should impose rigorous regulatory regimes and appropriate institutional frameworks. The group discussed how the processes and end products of legal reform could be participatory and inclusive. Reform would require careful long-term planning with full government commitment. Simple transposition of foreign legal systems should be avoided. Intersectoral coordination throughout the reform process is essential.

Listen to a recording of session 4.

Session 5, Panel 1 – Private Sector Engagement & Land-use – WRI

It can be noted, amongst other things, the availability of land use planning documents at various scales (national to local), and their level of implementation and monitoring; the inclusion of existing local plans in ongoing processes; the participation of the local population and the consideration of their interests; the position of the peat bog area in future land allocations; the involvement of the private sector which is one of the important actors but which is long considered insufficient in this process.

Session 5, Panel 2 – Involving indigenous peoples and local communities in forest governance – FAO

The participation of indigenous peoples and local communities is fundamental to good forest governance, as is stakeholder participation, transparency in decision-making and accountability. Whilst notable progresses have been made in some countries, the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in forest governance is not yet effective.

A holistic and integrated approach to innovation is required. Innovations are only effective if the entire system relies on capacity-building and a supportive legal and political framework. The panel recommends that countries implement the ‘Brazzaville Roadmap’ with a view to improving the efficiency of participatory forestry and the participation of indigenous peoples and communities.

Session 6, Panel 1 – Forest Certification and forest governance links – ATIBT

Panellists concluded that the FLEGT approach and private certification should be complementary rather than opposing. ATIBT presented an analysis of the similarities and differences between the FLEGT approach and voluntary certifications. It was noted that the social added value of logging is very important in the context of FSC-certified forest management. Various programmes and activities were discussed. Participants stressed the importance of conflict management mechanisms with neighbouring communities, in a logic of true partnership rather than disguised paternalism

In discussions around transparency it was stressed that this should be observed by all stakeholders involved in forest management, not only operators or public authorities, but also other actors of the civil society, especially journalists having a strong influence on public opinions. CEB presented its original method of wildlife management. This original participatory approach allows to monitor the legality and sustainability of wildlife harvesting.

Session 6, Panel 2 – Fire Management Planning, Sustainable Forest Management, Climate Change Response – US Forest Services

  • Mr BOCKANDZA PACO Frédéric, Director General ACFAP§ Mr GOUALA Patrice, Director of CNIAF
  • Mr Richard Paton, US Forest Services
  • Moussa Isaac, US Forest Services

Two case study presentations were made focusing on: the process of developing and validating the simplified fire management plan (SMFP) in and around the Léfini Reserve (Republic of Congo); and Fire management in the Lake Tumba landscape in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Participants appreciated the fire management planning process. They wanted these experiments to be replicated in both protected areas and forest concessions. They suggested that efforts should be made to develop all protected areas and enable the effective implementation of this SFMP.

Session 7, Panel 1 – The scope for building synergies between IFM and IWT – CIDT & Conservation Justice

During this session the objectives, methods and success factors of wildlife crime control organisations were presented and discussed. Effectiveness of interventions depends heavily on political will. Corruption and influence peddling are the major constraints encountered.

Opportunities for synergies can be established at different levels between organisations implementing independent monitoring and those active in the fight against wildlife trafficking. For example, setting up a common warning system, documenting good practices and success, capacity building and coordination of interventions.

Session 7, Panel 2 – The Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) – Proforest & Rainforest Alliance

The AFi is a collaborative effort amongst CSOs to accelerate progress and improve accountability for responsible production chain commitments in agriculture and forestry. It provides definitions, standards and guidelines that provide greater clarity, consistency, efficiency and accountability in the delivery of these commitments.

This session focused on the process and content of this initiative as well as on the technical aspects of its orientation and clarified in the way the framework is used by the partners and highlighted the different stakeholder groups including civil society, government and business.

Session 8, Plenary Session – Climate Change, Finance and REDD+ – World Bank

Participants discussed the low funding for projects in the Central African sub-region, and that despite the existence of numerous financial mechanisms, the allocations for forests in the Congo Basin are low. They recommend doing advocacy for financing projects in the Congo Basin forests and another for engaging heads of state to get involved in debates.

The panellists also noted good lessons learned from the REDD + process but in the context of good governance wished good collaboration or complementarity between REDD + and FLEGT processes. They concluded and affirmed that there is no fight against climate change without taking into account forests.

Session 8, panel session – Benefit Sharing, Gender and Funding – CIDT

Benefit sharing mechanisms in Congo Basin countries include contract specifications for forest operator, local development fund, and the annual forest tax. One of the main challenges relates to implementation with the consideration of gender aspects in the identification of projects and in monitoring achievements.

Panellists made recommendations around strengthening the support of communities, reinforcing corrective and punitive measures, identifying opportunities for working towards greater equity, as well as strengthening the legal framework for benefit sharing.

Closing session

At the closing session of the Forest Governance Forum a statement of thanks was given by Dr Aurelian Mbzibain of the University of Wolverhampton. A summary of the sessions was given by Professor Donatien Nzala. The forum was offically closed by Rosalie Matondo, Her Excellency the Minister of Forest Economy of the Republic of Congo.

Listen to a recording of the closing ceremony.

FGF group photo with Minister for Forest Economy

Citizen Voices for Change Project

The CV4C project is supported by the European Union and DFID and is implemented in Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Republic of Congo. This project aims to strengthen the contribution of non-state actors (NSA), such as civil society, Indigenous Peoples and community organisations, to improving forest governance, sustainable forest management and the contribution of forests to development.

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