CIDT facilitate inclusion of Asia Pacific national and local actors in global conversations on forest governanceContinue Reading
The advent of the Covid 19 pandemic has made us all realise the importance of nature and how our lives are dependent on nature; this in turn has helped galvanise the international community with greater fervour than ever around efforts to address biodiversity loss, deforestation and degradation and the impacts of climate change.
Central to these efforts is the need for local people and national civil society organisations to play a key role in international efforts and processes. However, there are some challenges that make it impossible for local communities and national civil society organisations to be effectively engaged, even though they are the ones bearing the brunt of the negative impacts of biodiversity loss, deforestation, degradation, and climate change.
Often national civil society organisations and local communities lack the knowledge and, in many instances, do not have access to the platforms and fora on which these issues are discussed and decided. The result is that they are never seen, and their voices are never heard.
To address these challenges, CIDT organised the Asia Pacific Forest Governance Forum from 27-30 September 2021. More than 240 people, from 38 countries dispersed around our planet and representing a range of sectors, tuned into Zoom to attend this event. The event was organised by CIDT through the regional project Strengthening non-state actor involvement in forest governance in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea led by BirdLife International based in Cambridge and funded by the European Union.
Aiming to showcase achievements, expertise and experience the event offered views from civil society, international organisations and the private sector who are engaged in different kinds and methods of forest governance across the region. Presentations looked at the progress and the challenges of policy processes concerning forest governance, climate change and biodiversity conservation and the impacts observed on the ground.
Another session focused on both the science and practice of some of the tools and approaches being used to enhance transparency, access to information and accountability.
The event also invited speakers to discuss issues, efforts and methods into making and achieving greater inclusive representation and participation of stakeholders in the policy process.
The event was a huge success as highlighted by feedback from some of the participants:
“Thank you for your excellent moderation. We find these events invaluable. With lots of engagement parallels and informed approaches, this is an essential forum.”
“Many thanks for the very successful, substantial and inspiring conversations!”
“Thanks to all presenters. Excellent efforts being conducted at all levels, and great sharing with us over the past week. So exciting to hear of so much great organising and action at local community levels. Also a great effort from all organisers and participants.”
“Thank you for the enlightens forum and brings great hope for better forest governance and give more benefits for indigenous peoples and local communities.”
“Thank you very much for organising such a precious and insightful dialogue for better forest governance!”
- Download the full report of the event
- Visit the Asia Pacific Forest Governance Forum website for presentations and recordings
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NGOs working in the environmental sector, specifically in the fields of forest governance and wildlife protection, in four countries of the Congo Basin region, Cameroon, Congo- Brazzaville, Gabon and CAR. The study took place within the framework of the project Strengthening Law Enforcement on Fauna and Flora in Central Africa (RALFF), funded by the European Union, with additional funding from the Forest Governance Markets and Climate Programme, of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
“Independent Forest and Wildlife Monitoring are approaches widely used by many civil society actors around the globe”, says Prof Aurelian Mbzibain, one of the authors of the report and CIDT forest governance expert. Fledgling research has been carried out on the typology of NGOs implementing strategies, but much more must be done to characterise these NGOs, the challenges they face and the synergies between the work of the two sectors. Prof Mbzibain explains, “One of the main questions to explore through this research is why large International NGOs work mainly in the field of wildlife protection and conservation, while smaller local NGOs focus more on IFM and illegal logging?”
“Finding an answer to this question was complex and layered”, explains Habiba Mohamed, a research team member, “Our respondents raised various factors such as the difficulty to raise sufficient funding for engagement in the field to support monitoring and investigations”. Another factor was the fear of criminal networks and threats, as small local NGOs lack the level of protection available for INGO staff members. Finally, Mrs Mohamed adds that some research participants touched on cultural factors: Communities see wildlife as meat and a source of protein as opposed to something to be preserved for economic or social benefit. Local NGOs feared the rejection of the communities if they preached the message of conservation or protection which limits community access to traditional hunting/fishing/cultural sites in forests, especially when they don’t have the means to assist them in improving their economic situation.
The report identities several internal and external challenges faced by local and international NGOs in the field, including issues like internal governance, leadership, gender issues, financial sustainability, the challenging relationship with governments and the controversial relationships with the private sector.
Download the full report in English.
Download the Executive Summary in English.
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A report “Defining and assessing the effectiveness of civil society networks working on forest governance issues in Africa and Asia” has been published based on the results of a 2021 study conducted by RECOFTC, the Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG) and the Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT) of the University of Wolverhampton. The study lead, Professor Aurelian Mbzibain of CIDT explains that NGOs and their networks have grown and developed in tandem with the struggle of governments to overcome societal challenges including inequity, poverty, climate change and environmental degradation. Public and private donors and development agencies are turning to civil society coalitions to deliver aid effectively, but there are increasing concerns about how effective these networks really are. Research to date on the effectiveness of networks has tended to focus on the performance and effectiveness of public and private sector networks, but much less is known about what makes civil society development networks work. This research addresses that gap.
The report highlights the multi-faceted nature of “effectiveness” and limited agreement amongst NGO leaders, international NGOs, donors and governments on what network effectiveness means. A diverse membership and skill set, shared vision and a performant management unit emerge as the most important internal contributing factor to the effectiveness of CS networks. Access to funding opportunities, safe civil space and recognition from donors and governments are the critical external factors. The study developed a model of civil society effectiveness including a framework for civil society networks to assess their effectiveness and develop measures for improvement.
The authors are grateful for various support from Tropenbos International, the European Union and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)- Forest Governance Markets and Climate (FGMC) Programme, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
 Provan, K.G and Milward, H. B (2001) ‘Do networks really work? A framework for evaluating public sector organizational networks’. Public Administration review 61:4, 414-423
Put your money where your mouth is: CIDT calls for the international community to provide sustainable support for citizen led monitoring of forest related climate change commitmentsContinue Reading
CIDT was honoured to be involved in the international climate change summit – COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. Through its collaboration with the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC) and Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP), CIDT organised a panel discussion entitled – Saving Africa’s Congo Basin Rainforest, People and Biodiversity. The panel discussion was held on 11th November 2021 in the COMIFAC pavilion. The panel was facilitated by Prof Philip Dearden and CIDT’s Prof Aurelian Mbzibain, Richard Nyirenda and Sarah Thomas participated in the panel discussion. The other panellists were drawn from CIDT’s partners in the region – Lilian Barros of Comptoir Juridique Junior – Harrison Nnoko of AJESH Cameroon, and also included representatives from Chatham House – Dr Alison Hoare, the FAO – Arielle Nkodo of the FAO FLEGT Programme, the European Forestry Institute- Dr Jim Djontu, and the Association Technique Internationale des Bois Tropicaux (ATIBT) – Françoise Van de Ven.
The session highlighted the importance of the independent monitoring work that is undertaken by national civil society organisations and communities in the Congo basin. This work, which provides third party objective information about the forest sector, is vital to combatting illegal forest degradation and deforestation. Over the past decade or so, CIDT through its FCDO and EU funded projects has been strengthening the organisational and technical capacities of these organisations and community groups in carrying out their independent monitoring work.
Civil society-led independent monitoring continues to be critical given the key role that forests play in climate mitigation and adaptation. One of the main outcomes of COP26 Glasgow was the Global Forest Finance pledge – a commitment by 12 countries, including the UK, to collectively provide US$ 12 billion for forest-related climate finance between 2021 and 2025, and strengthen collaboration to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. The Global Forest Finance pledge will help reinforce and operationalise the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use. This historic announcement emphasises the critical and interdependent roles of forests of all types, biodiversity, and sustainable land use in enabling the world to meet its sustainable development goals; to help achieve a balance between anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and removal by sinks; to adapt to climate change; and to maintain other ecosystem services. Independent monitoring will undoubtedly play a crucial role in ensuring that these pledges and commitments are met. CIDT therefore called for the international community to honour these historic pledges by providing reliable and sustainable support for the oversight role played by CSOs and local communities: the eyes and ears of the world in the global fight against deforestation.
This event took place on 11 November 2021. Here are the key resources:
- Download the PowerPoint presentation
- View a spotlight on CIDT work in Central Africa
- Download our future plans briefing
- Watch the full video below.
Over the past three decades CIDT’s engagement has made an impact on the lives of thousands of beneficiaries in Central and West Africa and contributed to the reduction of deforestation, wildlife trafficking and climate change. The organisation of this panel was made possible through the financial support of the EU funded PASGOF-SNOIE – Congo forest monitoring project and the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office Forest Governance Markets and Climate Programme.
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Saving Africa’s Congo Basin Rainforests, People and Biodiversity: An Interactive Forum on Civil Society led forest and wildlife monitoring and law enforcement Actions, Learning and Priorities for the Struggle Ahead
This event took place on 11 November 2021. Here are the key resources:
- Download the PowerPoint presentation
- View a spotlight on CIDT work in Central Africa
- Download our future plans briefing
- Watch the full video below.
Read our latest blog post – CIDT @ COP 26 – seeking a fair deal for the Congo Basin forests to find out more about COP and its importance, as well as our what has bought us to this event.
Congo Basin forests are of global importance. Unfortunately, these forests are under severe threats from unsustainable human activities accelerating illegal deforestation, conversion, wildlife poaching and loss of livelihoods of indigenous peoples. With support from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), CIDT, University of Wolverhampton has strengthened the role of Congo Basin Civil Society actors as environmental defenders and monitors of illegal deforestation and wildlife trafficking over the last decade; generating evidence for stronger law enforcement and sustainable management of forests and wildlife. We are proposing a panel discussion during COP 26 which will provide a unique opportunity for three representatives from Cameroon, Republic of Congo and Gabon to engage face-to-face with the live audience (in French with simultaneous translation) their first hand experiences of tropical forest and biodiversity loss and their tactics to counter illegal deforestation and wildlife trafficking in the region*. These regional experts will be complimented by a panel of international experts on independent forest and wildlife monitoring and law enforcement from CIDT and other international organisations (TBC).
The aim of the panel discussion to be hosted in the COMIFAC pavilion (specify location) is to present and critique the role of independent forest and wildlife monitoring and law enforcement by civil society as a key tool for fighting illegal deforestation and biodiversity loss while highlighting its contributions to climate change. Panellists will share Central African experience and recommendations to stimulate debate and improved understanding of the realistic options for the Congo Basin. The panel session will target government officials, donor agencies, private sector, NGOs, Biodiversity Conservationists, etc.
Agenda for the panel discussion
- Introduction: The Head of CIDT, Professor Philip Dearden will faciliate the panel discussions. The panellists will be introduced together with a brief overview of IFM and wildlife monitoring and law enforcement while showcasing FCDO and other funding partners’ support to its development in the past decade (5 mins).
- Part 1 – experience from the last decade: This will be followed by three fast moving 10 minute presentations by our expert Congo Basin civil society partners or international experts on the theme of ‘Independent Forest and wildlife Monitoring and law enforcement’ case studies. Experience from the last decade will be drawn and presented from Congo, Gabon and Cameroon. (30 mins).
- Audience questions to the panel: Facilitated questions from both the live and remote audience to the panel to further clarify and critique on tactics and strategies to save Africa’s Congo Basin Rainforests, People and Biodiversity.(10 mins).
- Part 2 – recommendations for the next decade: This will be a further 15 minutes round of presentation reflecting on ways forward for a stronger role of independent forest and wildlife monitoring in saving the Congo Basin forests, people and biodiversity. (15 mins).
- Audience questions to the panel: Facilitated questions from the live and remote audience to further clarify and critique the recommendations for way forward (10 mins).
- Conclusion: The facilitator will conclude aiming to summarise the recommendations for action drawn both from the Panel and the Audiences Contributions. (5 mins).
Meet the panel
Moderator: Prof Philip N Dearden, CIDT – University of Wolverhampton
Phil has spent his career working on practical development projects working at the intersection of environmental issues and international development. He has worked on many projects/programmes and undertaken capacity development work in over 50 counties.
Convenor: Prof Aurelian Mbzibain, CIDT – University of Wolverhampton
Aurelian is a Professor of International Development at the University of Wolverhampton and the Team Lead on Climate, Forests, Agriculture and Wildlife at the Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT). His work and research are in forest governance networks, civil society, forest and wildlife monitoring and law enforcement. His recent publications have been in World Development and Forest Policy and Economics.
Dr Jim Djontu, European Forest Institute
Jim is a land use and forest governance Expert with the European Forest Institute (EFI). He has over 20 years on experience in the sector and has deep knowledge and understanding of development practices with various institutional donors and agencies. Jim has supported FLEGT and REDD+ processes in several Congo Basin countries. He is and ex-FLEGT/VPA Facilitator for the Republic of Congo.
Harrison Nnoko, AJESH Cameroon
Harrison is the Co-founder and CEO of AJESH. He has been very influential in the negotiation and implementation of the FLEGT VPA in Cameroon and was part of the CSO team of experts that analysed Chinese involvement in the forest and natural resources sector in Cameroon and the Congo Basin.
Dr Alison Hoare, Chatham House
Alison Hoare is a senior research fellow of Chatham House, with expertise in international forestry policy, forest governance, and natural resource use and trade. She has also conducted research on sustainable investment standards, infrastructure and climate change. She has previously worked with a range of environmental and forestry organisations, undertaking research, policy analysis and project management.
Lilian Barros, Comptoir Juridique Junior (CJJ)
Lilian is Permanent Secretary of Comptoir Juridique Junior (CJJ) and Coordinator of the Plateforme pour la Gestion Durable des Forêts (PGDF) in Congo. He is also Project Manager of the EU and FCDO funded PASGOF-SNOIE independent forest monitoring project. Lilian is a lawyer by training with over 15 years of experience in IFM, legal reform and promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights.
Françoise Van de Ven, International Tropical Timber Technical Association
Françoise was Chair at UFIGA from 2015-2021. She has worked in Belgium in the wood sector and spent 18 years in DRC, including 8 years as a leader of companies in the timber sector and 9 years as Secretary General of the Federation of timber processing companies (FIB). Her long experience, extensive international network, and knowledge of the countries of the Congo Basin make her a resource person for all stakeholders. She also represents the Timber associations on the Board of Directors of ATIBT.
Arielle Nkodo, FAO FLEGT Programme
Arielle is an experienced forest and wildlife engineer with a special focus on tropical forests, community forestry, governance and forest sector policy, and Independent Forest Monitoring focused on the implementation of sustainable forest resource management processes (i.e REDD+, FLEGT and FSC). Through her work in Central Africa, Arielle has gained precious local insight and expertise. She takes special interest in support to local communities’ livelihoods through the sustainable use of forest resources, good forest governance and the fight against illegal logging.
Sarah Thomas, CIDT – University of Wolverhampton
Sarah’s work focuses mainly on supporting the organisational development of civil society and community organisations in the forest sector, and strengthening the effectiveness, sustainability and influence of networks and coalitions of Civil Society and non-state actors in governance and policymaking processes. She has worked with partner NGOs and networks across the Congo Basin and has also led civil society capacity development initiatives in SE Asia and Liberia.
Richard Nyrienda, CIDT – University of Wolverhampton
Richard’s key work is around researching and delivering interventions that seek to strengthen the capability of non-state actors to effectively engage in national and international policy processes around reducing deforestation and degradation, combatting illegal logging, and promoting the role of forest in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Over the last few years Richard has worked extensive
Financial Contribution: CIDT will draw on its ongoing FCDO/EU funded grants to support and sponsor reasonable share of the pavilion costs to be agreed with FCDO and COMIFAC. CIDT will also support the participation of Congo Basin partners in case COMIFAC is able to issue accreditation letters and facilitate access to daily access passes to the Blue zone for the events.
*The assumption being that they are able to gain accreditation with the support of COMIFAC and CBFP and obtain visas in time to travel.
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“In Cameroon, illegal logging is estimated at 33% of overall log production, while the annual financial loss is estimated at around 33 billion CFA francs [around 4 million GBP], excluding biodiversity losses”, says Ghislain Fomou, an expert in Natural Resources Management in Cameroon and the lead author of the policy brief.
“In this climate, where Cameroon has subscribed to various international and regional instruments and is implementing various public and private initiatives to fight against illegal logging and wildlife trade, namely FLEGT-VPAs, CITES, ECOFAC, Independent Monitoring etc., there are questions on the effectiveness of all these initiatives on the ground.”
In this context, a study has been jointly co-commissioned by CIDT, under the Forest Governance, Markets and Climate (FGMC) Programme, funded by FCDO and the project ‘Strengthening Forest and Wildlife Law Enforcement in Central Africa’ (RALFF), funded by the European Union and implemented by Conservation Justice (CJ). “The objective of this study is to assess the operational constraints faced by the mechanisms to fight against illegal logging. This study was specifically aimed at monitoring and identifying illegal forest and wildlife related practices, analysing the extent to which operational monitoring systems address illegal practices and propose solutions to strengthen the systems in place”, says Dr Aurelian Mbzibain, Team Leader of Climate, Forests, Agriculture and Wildlife at the Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT).
“This policy brief is based on an extensive field study”, says Fomou, “which covered the Lom and Djerem and the Upper-Nyong divisions in the eastern region, as well as the of Dja and Lobo division of the southern region in Cameroon”. The study has also involved interviews with key stakeholders in the fields of fighting wildlife and forestry crimes, including government officials, representatives of the civil society and members of the local forestry communities.
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CIDT joins and supports civil society organisations from Asia and the Pacific, the Americas, Europe, and West and Central Africa in calling on the EU and international community for lasting policy solutions to strengthen forest governance, protect and restore forests. CIDT is already involved in pushing for a number of policy initiatives as we build towards the international climate change conference COP26 to be held in Glasgow in November.
Download the summary document ‘Raising the bar Strengthening EU biodiversity and climate leadership through FLEGT and Forest Partnerships’, which gives an overview of the vision and recommendations.
This statement summarises the views of civil society organisations (CSOs) from Asia and the Pacific, the Americas, Europe, and West and Central Africa. These organisations help address the key challenges threatening forests around the world, including the ongoing trade in illegal timber and commodity-driven deforestation, by proposing lasting solutions that work for people and the planet. If the EU follows these recommendations, it will help to strengthen forest governance, and protect and restore forests globally:
- Use the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Fitness Check to strengthen the FLEGT Action Plan and the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and address the persistent obstacles that hamper their effective implementation.
- Maintain the integrity of the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) and provide tailored support to VPA countries, ensuring CSOs, local communities and Indigenous Groups have the space and capacity to participate.
- Develop ambitious, inclusive, and rights-based Forest Partnerships that respond to the partner countries’ needs.
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For four years, partners on the Citizen Voices for Change (CV4C) project have explored ways of making forest governance, and particularly independent forest monitoring stronger, more targeted, more effective. They have taken on powerful players and they have assisted government officials. They have integrated cross-cutting issues such as gender responsiveness into each aspect of their work. They have reached across national borders to help each other.
Here are some of their stories.
Click the titles to download the stories
Standardised forest data: Cameroon – FODER
SNOIE and ISO certification: An innovative approach ensures the reliability of information
In a sector where reliable data are both crucial and difficult to obtain, FODER has taken the extraordinary step of obtaining ISO certification for its independent system to collect and manage forest information.
Financial Health: Republic of the Congo − CAGDF
Replenishing the State’s coffers
The painstaking work of a tiny team of independent forest monitors truly pays off.
Judicial Transparency: Central African Republic – CIEDD
Pulled from oblivion: Toward transparent enforcement of the Central African Republic’s forest law framework
By rehabilitating forest monitoring and judicial transparency, CIEDD has created the tools that CAR’s forest administration needs to succeed.
Justice: Gabon − Brainforest
Impunity is not what it used to be: 17 communities stand up to logging companies
Gabonese NGO Brainforest has used the rigorous data collected through its independent forest monitoring activities to support community litigation – and to win.
Peer-to-peer learning: Cameroon − FLAG
A Regional Toolbox: FLAG develops critical instruments to empower independent monitors of forestry activity
For the actors who inspect the timber sector in the Congo Basin sub-region, the Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG) serves as a vital technical resource.
Synergy of methods: Democratic Republic of Congo – OGF
Casting a wide net to control illegal logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo
OGF has helped to enhance the quality of independent forest monitoring and sparked the creation of RENOI-RDC, a network that relies on the synergy of different methods to tackle illegal logging.
Gender responsiveness: Congo Basin
Pulling together: Integrating gender in Congo Basin forest governance
A transboundary project demonstrates how to benefit from greater gender responsiveness in policy-making and throughout the project cycle.
Gender responsiveness case studies: Turbulence ahead
Across the Congo Basin, civil society groups are using CV4C tools to craft and implement more inclusive policies and programmes
Depuis quatre ans, les partenaires du projet Voix des citoyens pour le changement (CV4C) ont exploré les moyens de rendre la gouvernance forestière, et en particulier l’observation indépendante de l’exploitation forestière plus forte, plus ciblée, plus efficace. Ils ont tenu tête aux joueurs puissants et ils ont porté assistance aux représentants du gouvernement. Ils ont intégré des questions transversales telles que la sensibilité au genre dans tous les aspects de leur travail. Ils ont tendu la main au-delà des frontières nationales pour s’entraider.
Voici quelques-unes de leurs histoires.
Cliquez sur les titres pour télécharger les histoires.
Données forestières normalisées : Cameroun – FODER
SNOIE certifié ISO : L’innovation qui assure la fiabilité des informations
Dans un secteur où les données pratiques sont à la fois cruciales et difficiles à obtenir, FODER a franchi une étape extraordinaire en obtenant la certification ISO du système indépendant de collecte et de gestion des informations forestières.
Santé financière : République du Congo − CAGDF
Renflouer les caisses de l’État
Le travail de fourmi d’une petite équipe d’observateurs indépendants de l’exploitation forestière rapporte gros.
Transparence judiciaire : République centrafricaine – CIEDD
Sorti des oubliettes : vers un contrôle forestier transparent en République centrafricaine
En réhabilitant le contrôle forestier et la transparence judiciaire, le CIEDD a créé les outils dont avait besoin l’administration forestière en RCA pour réussir.
Justice : Gabon − Brainforest
L’impunité n’est plus ce qu’elle était : 17 communautés tiennent tête aux sociétés forestières
L’ONG gabonaise Brainforest s’est servie de données rigoureuses collectées en tant qu’Observateur indépendant pour appuyer l’action en justice des communautés locales – et pour gagner.
Partage entre pairs : Cameroun − FLAG
Boîte à outils régionale : le FLAG développe les instruments nécessaires pour accompagner les observateurs indépendants de l’activité forestière
Pour les acteurs qui contrôlent le secteur bois dans la sous-région du Bassin du Congo, le Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG) sert de balise d’alignement et de ressource technique.
Synergie de méthodes : République Démocratique du Congo – OGF
RENOI-RDC jette un large filet pour contrôler l’exploitation illégale de bois dans la République Démocratique du Congo
OGF a contribué à améliorer la qualité de l’OI et a motivé la création de RENOI-RDC, un réseau qui s’appuie sur la synergie de différentes méthodes pour lutter contre l’exploitation illégale.
Sensibilisation au genre : Bassin du Congo
Tous ensemble : Intégrer la sensibilité au genre dans la gouvernance forestière du bassin du Congo
Un projet transfrontalier montre comment bénéficier d’une inclusion approfondie du genre dans la formulation des politiques et tout au long du cycle de projet.
Sensibilité au genre, cas d’étude : Zone de turbulence
À travers le Bassin du Congo, les organisations de la société civile s’emparent des outils CV4C pour façonner et mettre en œuvre des politiques et programmes plus inclusives.
Webinar series on COVID-19 and the Forest Sector – Experience from Forest Communities of COVID-19 ImpactsContinue Reading
On 28 October 2020, the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Programme hosted the webinar “Experience from Forest Communities of COVID-19 Impacts”. This virtual event was part of FAO’s Forestry Division’s webinar series on COVID-19 and the forest sector.
The event presented the results of two Programme-supported field surveys carried out by the University of Wolverhampton’s Center for International Development and Training (CIDT) and by RECOFTC. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront a number of pressing global challenges. Health systems have been stretched thin and lockdown measures have taken a heavy social and economic toll, the devastating impacts of which are being felt by all – from urban residents of densely populated megacities to indigenous peoples living deep in the heart of forests.
Recognizing that forest-based communities play a critical role as custodians of forest resources, the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme partnered with RECOFTC and CIDT to survey the immediate impacts of the pandemic on forest-based communities in several countries in Asia and Africa, including perceptions of law enforcement, as critical inputs towards designing suitable recovery programmes. Overall, the studies included both those communities that have community-designated forests and structures in place such as forest committees, and those that do not.
The webinar presented the findings of these surveys and identified concrete actions to support forest-based communities, as a central part of forest-sector recovery efforts. Aurelian Mbzibain (CIDT) stated that Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) surveyed in the Congo Basin – Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo – also suffered negative impacts of COVID-19, revealing a higher proportion of women impacted, who reported both economic losses but also an increase in domestic violence. Dr Mbzibain remarked that respondents perceived a lower presence of government forest control activities on the ground and higher levels of illegal logging, and made several recommendations, such as the need to strengthen independent forest monitoring by civil society and the ensuing need to improve access to digital technologies. Furthermore, Dr Mbzibain encouraged strengthening participatory processes that include IPLCs and women in post recovery investment planning, ensuring that legality, sustainability and inclusive development are at the forefront of the post-recovery agenda. As a last recommendation Dr Mbzibain highlighted the need for strong monitoring of government and private sector commitments to the fight against illegal logging, deforestation and forest degradation.
David Ganz (RECOFTC) highlighted the importance of forests as safety nets for local communities in times of crisis and the role of community forestry in protecting forests against illegalities. Respondents reported that lockdown had reduced food security and livelihood options of forest communities surveyed. Like CIDT, RECOFTC also found that women have been more negatively affected by the crisis than men. Dr Ganz highlighted that where community forestry committees were present and functioning, these were able to support members to better cope with the social and economic impacts of the pandemic and to mitigate the threat of forest crime. He identified seven key actions that need to be taken to build the resilience of forest communities, including: (i) supporting and strengthening community forestry credit mechanisms; (ii) strengthen capacity of governments and community forestry committees for disaster preparedness and response; (iii) enable and equip community forestry committees to mobilize, use and disburse funds efficiently: (iv) mainstream gender equality in policies and investments; (v) strengthen capacity of community forest groups to tackle forest crimes; (vi) improve digital access to improve market access and enable disaster preparedness and response as well as market access; ( vii) focus on investment on approaches that improve both livelihoods and address climate change, such as landscape restoration and management.
Similar findings to those of these two studies were reported by Sophie Grouwels (FAO Forest and Farm Facility) with regard to pandemic impacts on Forest and Farm Producer Organizations (FFPOs), including decreased incomes, food insecurity, displacement and loss of lives. Despite these challenges, the vital role of FFPOs in responding to the COVID-19 crisis – as suppliers and buyers of a broad basket of products, as providers of a range of social protections services (health, education and child care), and as facilitators of the flow of information between local, regional and national levels – was underlined.
The findings presented in the webinar confirmed, once more, that communities’ role in oversight and sustainable management of forest resources is indisputable, and that stronger and better organized community structures, including FFPOs and forest monitor networks, have the capacity to build resilience for the future – resilience of both communities and of the forests themselves to withstand economic and environmental pressure. In this context, FAO remains committed to supporting COVID-19 recovery efforts which maintain long term efforts for legal and equitable forest sector with community interests and role at the centre.
The webinar also included an active Q&A session, summarized in the document attached.
The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations is a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources for activities that further the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan. The Programme is funded by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom
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This article first published on Chatham House Forest Governance and Legality.
Richard Nyirenda and Aurelian Mbzibain outline the current state of play of Independent Foresting Monitoring in Africa and set out recommendations for how it can continue to play a strong role in reforming the sector.
Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) has been part of global efforts to stop illegal logging, reduce deforestation and improve forest governance since the 1990s.
There is a long history of IFM in Central and West Africa, but, while there have been significant improvements in forest governance, deforestation and forest degradation have nevertheless continued at an alarming rate.
Yet, IFM in the Congo basin has progressed in leaps and bounds in recent years with a growing number of national and regional civil society organizations (CSOs) developing their expertise and strengthening their organizational capacities.
IFM in the Congo basin has progressed in leaps and bounds, with a growing number of national and regional CSOs developing their expertise.
With mainly funding from the European Union (EU), UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization-European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FAO-EU FLEGT) Programme, these organizations have put in place financial management systems, gender policies, strategic plans and resource mobilization plans while also working to improve their technical knowledge and capabilities on forest monitoring and reporting.
In Cameroon, for example, a strengthened IFM network has prompted increased government enforcement in the forest sector. Coordinated by the non-governmental organization, Forêts et Développement Rural (FODER), the Standardized External Independent Monitoring System network (SNOIE) has been implementing an ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System (QMS) since 2015. This provides for continuous internal and external independent audits, ensuring the traceability of all monitoring activities, as well as providing opportunities for continuous improvement and learning.
In the Republic of Congo, the mandated independent monitoring organization – Cercle d’Appui à la Gestion Durable des Forêts (CAGDF) – has so far been carrying the torch for IFM in the country although a few other organizations are involved in non-mandated activities too.
But, because of its formal agreement with the government, its remit is limited: it has mainly focused on forestry operations and it is not able to follow up on the enforcement of cases. This has meant it has had limited impact on the forest sector as a whole.
However, a new ‘SNOIE Congo’ system, involving a network of Congolese NGOs, based on the Cameroonian experience, has recently been established. These complementary initiatives will increase the capacity for IFM thereby enabling it to play a greater role in strengthening the country’s timber legality assurance system and monitoring progress with implementation of the country’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Observatoire de la Gouvernance Forestière (OGF) has been working as the mandated IFM since 2013 and has established a nationwide independent monitoring network called the Réseau National des Observateurs Indépendants sur la Gouvernance Forestière en RDC (RENOI-RDC). In addition, OGF has also been piloting independent monitoring for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiatives.
In Gabon, Brainforest has been undertaking independent monitoring investigations since 2017. This work has included the provision of legal assistance to communities to enable them to claim their rightful benefits from large-scale forest exploitation.
Brainforest also coordinates a new coalition of eight community-based organizations and a community alert network of over 40 indigenous people and local community (IPLC) representatives throughout the country. The government has also made clear its commitment to inclusive land use planning, forest monitoring and forest governance, for example, through a 2017 Letter of Intent with the Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI) which provides a strong basis for further strengthening this work.
It is important to consider the key themes and trends relating to the future of IFM and how it could better help to reduce deforestation and degradation.
In the Central African Republic (CAR), the Centre pour l’Information Environnementale et le Développement Durable (CIEDD) began investigating forest sector legality in 2016 and found that there was very little law enforcement taking place. In response to this situation, CIEDD has undertaken forest monitoring in the country and has been implementing a number of tools to support the administration in fulfilling its oversight role, for example, establishing a Register of Infractions, a forest control manual and a forest and environmental crime working group.
In light of these developments, it is important to consider the key themes and trends relating to the future of IFM and how it could better help to reduce deforestation and degradation.
National level strategy
One of the key lessons to emerge from the work in the region is the value of a national level strategy for IFM. In many of the countries, IFM is currently undertaken by a plethora of organizations using a range of different approaches and methodologies often with overlapping roles, conflicts of interest and without effective modalities for coordination. This reduces the credibility of IFM in the eyes of key stakeholders such as the government, private sector and enforcement officials in timber importing countries.
In the Republic of Congo, for example, a strategic framework is being developed by CIDT and the CSO platform to bring all the independent monitoring organizations and stakeholders together. This is critical in ensuring that IFM is relevant and aligns with national forest and land use processes which in turn serves to build its credibility among stakeholders. A national strategy for IFM also helps to create a clear vision for CSOs to work towards and can reinforce ownership at the national level.
A national strategy for IFM helps to create a clear vision for CSOs to work towards and can reinforce ownership at the national level.
From observation to investigation
However, IFM needs to expand from its traditional focus on observing infringements and infractions related to timber harvesting to more investigative and data-based analysis.
Illegal deforestation and degradation is being driven by a range of economic activities and these encompass many new forms of forest crime. Current IFM methodologies must therefore evolve in order to address these.
New investigative approaches and capabilities are also needed that will allow independent monitoring to investigate complex value chains and to follow the finance that is fuelling forest crime. This shift should include strengthening linkages with national and international anti-corruption structures, the judiciary and other government agencies, such as all Ministries of Finance.
Within FLEGT and REDD+, a focus on the legality grid and safeguards would further strengthen the relevance of IFM and align it more strongly with national processes.
Independent monitoring organizations must also embrace the use of new tools and equipment. Already some tools to monitor changes in forest cover have been deployed by these organizations. For example, FLEGT Watch, which uses radar satellite data by independent monitoring organizations in the region to monitor illegal logging and deforestation.
Similarly, Forest Link enables communities to engage in real-time monitoring of economic activities in their forests and has been deployed in five countries in the region.
Independent monitoring organizations also need to incorporate the use of innovative technology such as drones in their efforts to collect real-time data and credible evidence particularly where access to areas of interest is restricted.
Beyond forests to other sectors
There is an urgent need to extend IFM beyond forestry and to harness its investigative and analytical potential in the monitoring of decisions and actions in other sectors including mining and agricultural commodities.
In Cameroon, for example, FODER is focussing on the mining sector while, in Gabon, Brainforest has undertaken monitoring missions targeting the large-scale agricultural sector.
Elsewhere there is increasing demand particularly from consumer country stakeholders for IFM to be extended to the monitoring of commodity supply chains and zero-deforestation commitments.
IFM could also enlarge its focus to encompass CITES listed species, for example, helping to ensure that CITES permits and quotas are respected. Lessons from monitoring the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) from the Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement (EAGLE) network, such as collaborative law enforcement actions with the judiciary, also warrant further exploration.
There is an urgent need to extend IFM beyond forestry and to harness its investigative and analytical potential in the monitoring of decisions and actions in other sectors.
Congo basin countries have included forest-related targets in their NDCs and IFM will be important in monitoring the implementation of these targets.
Experience of undertaking independent monitoring in the forest sector points to the critical role it plays in supporting indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) to claim their rights which constitutes important transferable learning particularly given the growing demand on land from agriculture and other sectors.
Finally, Congo basin countries have included a range of forest-related targets in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and IFM will also be important in monitoring the implementation of these targets.
Legal recognition of IFM is needed in many countries so that it is more widely accepted – both by government and industry stakeholders. In the Republic of Congo, IFM is provided for in the 2020 forest code while the CAR and Liberia VPAs both provide for IFM.
However, in many other countries civil society-led independent monitoring still lacks legal recognition and acceptance. Legal recognition is of critical importance to help ensure access to public information and documentation and to provide protection for whistle-blowers which are both essential to the implementation of IFM. The establishment of a legally-binding commitment from governments to respond to IFM reports, therefore, is needed.
The development and certification of SNOIE in Cameroon has improved the quality of IFM and quality management systems should be developed and implemented in other countries in order to improve its implementation and credibility across the region.
These systems do not necessarily need to be certified but, as a minimum standard, each independent monitoring organization should put in place a robust internal system that involves a third-party assessment mechanism. This will help to ensure that independent monitoring organizations are clear about what their objectives are i.e. why they are involved in IFM, what the change is that they want to see and what their expectations are with regard to their stakeholders.
National and regional coordination
Strong links between IFM and advocacy nationally and internationally is critical in the face of inertia and a lack of response from officials to ensure that the evidence generated is used by decision-makers for law enforcement.
Regional IFM platforms such as the Plateforme Africaine de l’Observation Indépendante (PAOI) – a pan-African independent monitoring platform which brings together IFM organizations – are well-placed to support both national advocacy networks and regional and international advocacy movements through strengthening voice, capacity-building and participation.
Furthermore, by linking with international activist organizations and media platforms, there is the potential to reach consumers of African-produced forest and agricultural commodities in other parts of the world to raise awareness of the role of their consumption behaviours in driving illegal deforestation and degradation.
Strong links between IFM and advocacy nationally and internationally is critical in the face of inertia.
Sustainable funding for IFM remains a major challenge. So far, support has been sporadic and project-based thereby hindering efforts to build and embed the capability that is needed to ensure the sustainability of IFM activities in Africa.
Drawing on lessons learnt in Indonesia, future funding of IFM could be considered under a Congo basin independent monitoring fund to support monitoring activities and capacity-building.
IFM, and the generation of reliable forestry information, is a public good that requires long term funding.
The PAOI network, given its regional coverage and expertise, is well-placed to manage such a fund and to provide training. IFM, and the generation of reliable forestry information, is a public good that requires long term funding and, a fund of this kind, would further strengthen both the independence and the reach of IFM.
Ultimately, IFM plays a crucial role in fighting corruption, increasing transparency and detecting forest crimes and illegal land use. However, as an approach, IFM must continue to innovate in order to remain focused on the key drivers of deforestation and degradation. This will require those CSOs undertaking IFM to build new capacities and capabilities while sustained and sustainable funding will also be essential to enable CSOs to continue to fulfil their watchdog role more effectively in a rapidly evolving context.