• Advances in Independent Forest Monitoring are bringing change to the forests of the Congo Basin

    6 April 2020
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    IFM in CAR

    The University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT) has been at the forefront of promoting civil society led independent monitoring of forests, governance and land-use change processes in the Congo Basin within its Citizen Voices for Change Programme since 2017.

    This information leaflet recalls several stories of real, meaningful and lasting change, realised through years of collaboration, hard work and innovation.

    These efforts are the work of several civil society organisations (Brainforest in Gabon, CAGDF in Congo, CIEDD in CAR, CED and FODER in Cameroon, OGF in DRC and FLAG at regional level) that are motivated to implement the behaviour and systems required to ensure that Independent Forest Monitoring (IM) becomes an effective mechanism for improved forest management and governance.

    These impact stories are the results of coordinated efforts within and between countries, where lessons are shared, support is at hand, and goals are aligned. There is a risk that the current global Coronavirus epidemic will further weaken forest governance and law enforcement systems in these countries and hence the need for national civil society organisations to remain vigilant. International development and donor agencies must also ensure that monitoring and law enforcement resources are available during and after the pandemic to ensure that forest illegalities remain under check and that organised crime groups and other unscrupulous groups are held to account.

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  • Research paper dissects the factors impacting efficacy of independent forest monitoring networks in Cameroon

    6 February 2020
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    SNOIE Forest Monitors in Cameroon. Credit: FODER.

    This research paper by Aurelian Mbzibain (University of Wolverhampton) and Symphorien Ongolo (University of Göttingen) takes Cameroon as a case study of the nature of independent forest monitoring (IFM) networks, the impact they have and the challenges they face. In this context, self-guided NGOs forge relationships with the authorities and expose unlawful activity under the pressures of funding uncertainties and unmet training needs.

    The article is published in the journal ‘Forest Policy and Economics’, Volume 109, December 2019. Its full title is Complementarity, rivalry and substitution in the governance of forests: Learning from independent forest monitoring system in Cameroon.

    Results of this research have already stimulated national discussions in the sustainable management of forests in Gabon with the EU Ambassador to Gabon, Rosario Bento Pais, who stressed the need for understanding between actors and the stronger role of civil society in monitoring forest law enforcement and governance.

    Aurelian Mbzibain commented,

    “Forest management is a very important issue for the European Union. The aim here is to encourage good coordination and smooth communication between the administration, civil society and economic operators in the context of independent monitoring of the management of natural resources, in order to achieve the objectives of good governance and sustainable forest management.”


    The paper highlights a few key points around independent forest monitoring in Cameroon, remarking that:

    • IFM governance networks in Cameroon contribute to improving transparency and forest governance.
    • IFM linkages with state agencies are fluid ranging from complementarity to rivalry.
    • Network alliances with agencies beyond forestry enhance forest law enforcement
    • Inadequate funding and weak capabilities amongst network actors constrain effectiveness.


    The consequence of state-controlled forestry in Cameroon has been the overexploitation of forest resources often in conflict with local forest-dependent communities and state conservation objectives. The failure of state-controlled forestry to achieve sustainable forest management has led to the emergence of new network like arrangements amongst which is independent forest monitoring (IFM) by civil society. The aim of this paper is to scrutinize the factors which affect the effectiveness of IFM governance network in Cameroon. Our research focused on a case study of Cameroon, employing a governance network perspective. The main findings are that national civil society in Cameroon is playing a significant role in improving transparency in the forest sector and holding decision makers to account. The paper finds a shift from technical areas of forest monitoring to the monitoring of social obligations and the respect of community rights by private companies. An analysis of actors highlights a strong network of national NGOs with self-defined goals and strategies engaged in very fluid relationships with law enforcement agencies beyond traditional ministries of forests and wildlife characterised by a spectrum ranging from complementarity, substitution and rivalry. The lack of sustainable funding and weak capabilities of national NGOs to navigate these fluid relationships emerges as core constraints for network effectiveness. Accordingly, recommendations for effectiveness entail strategies for sustainable funding, capacity strengthening and network coordination to address current weaknesses but also to build trust and credibility of the governance network.


    Photo: SNOIE Forest Monitors in Cameroon. Credit: FODER.

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  • CIDT leads on regional forest and climate change forum in SE Asia and the Pacific

    23 September 2019
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    As part of its role as a technical partner on the EU funded SE Asia Forest Policy project, CIDT is now leading the preparation of a regional forest and climate change policy forum. This Forest Governance Forum (FGF) will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia in February 2020. CIDT is building on similar regional Forest Governance Forums that it has successfully implemented in Central and West Africa since 2011.

    In SE Asia, CIDT is working with respected conservation NGO, Birdlife International who are based in Cambridge. The project operates in 4 countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea and in each country, a leading national conservation NGO is responsible for the implementation of project activities. CIDT is very excited to lead on this initiative as this will be the first regional forum to be organised in SE Asia and the Pacific. Such forums are critical in creating the necessary links between policy, practice and key stakeholders in the regional working on forest governance, conservation and climate change. The tropical forests of SE Asia and the Pacific (Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam & Papua New Guinea) are some of the most important forests in the world for economic, social and environmental reasons. These forests cover a total area of more 170 million hectares, support extraordinary species diversity and provide livelihoods for millions of people.

    From 9-16 August 2019 CIDT’s Cristina Jara and Richard Nyirenda visited Bogor and Jakarta in Indonesia to meet with project partners, senior Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry officials, key forestry and climate change stakeholders that included CIFOR, UK Department for International Development experts, regional forestry training organisation RECOFTC, representatives of international NGOs and think tanks (e.g. the World Resources Institute) and academia. This visit formed the initial and critical part of the preparations for the regional forum. Time was also spent working on detailed plans with project partner Burung Indonesia (a member of Birdlife International).

    One of the key outcomes of the visit was the setting up of a National Advisory Group that will advise the forum organising and technical committee on issues relating to the relevance and overall scope of the forum. The National Advisory Group is made up of representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, national NGOs, the private sector and other local stakeholders engaged in Forestry projects and programmes in Indonesia. CIDT also participated in a National Stakeholders Meeting (NSC) with the significant participation of Ministry of Environment and Forestry. During this high-level meeting CIDT representatives presented our work on forest governance. Richard Nyirenda noted:

    “This is the first event in this category in South East Pacific Asia, which will be an opportunity for international and national organisations, researchers, academics and private sector to discuss forestry issues, opportunities and current projects.

    The aim of this meeting was also to engage the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry as a key actor for this event.

    In Jakarta, CIDT, BirdLife International and Burung Indonesia visited RECOFT, CIFOR, MFP4 and WRI-Indonesia headquarters to share information about the forum and encourage active participation in the event. Cristina Jara remarked:

    This first visit was very positive. The organisations we met are keen on participating and supporting the Forest Governance Forum by inviting their local and regional partners, funding participants, leading and presenting sessions, and suggesting relevant topics.”

    CIDT will be working closely with BirdLife International, Burung Indonesia, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, CIFOR and other key organisations during the following months to make this forum possible.

    More information, including information for applicants, can be found at the Forest Governance Forum web page. Richard and Cristina were accompanied by Birdlife’s Kuala Lumpur based regional Project Manager, Hum Gurung.

    Photos from the Forum steering meeting

    Photos from meetings

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  • Développement stratégique régional pour le réseau panafricain des organisations mettant en œuvre l’observation des forêts

    17 September 2019
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    Avec l’appui financier et technique du projet CV4C, financé par l’UE et géré par le CIDT, le partenaire du projet, le Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG) a organisé avec succès un atelier régional de planification stratégique pour le réseau panafricain d’observation indépendante des forêts (PA-OI), qui s’est tenu à Kribi, au Cameroun, du 21 au 26 juillet 2019.

    L’atelier a consacré deux jours au renforcement des capacités techniques axées sur les enquêtes techniques concernant les infractions forestières, les flux financiers illicites et la criminalité transnationale. Ces séances avaient pour objectif le transfert des compétences techniques de l’application des lois forestières afin d’améliorer les approches en matière d’observation indépendante des forêts. Animé par des experts dans le domaine de la mise en application des lois environnementales en Afrique, la formation proposait des stratégies et des actions pour lutter contre l’exploitation forestière illégale, les crimes économiques et financiers, ainsi que les techniques d’enquête sur les infractions forestières.

    Suite àcette formation, un atelier de planification stratégique avait été organisé pour la Plateforme africaine d’Observation Indépendante (PA-OI), un réseau rassemblant 11 organisations de la société civile àtravers le Bassin du Congo, afin d’échanger les connaissances, les expériences et partager les informations sur des questions liées à l’Observation Indépendante des Forêts (OIF). L’objectif principal de l’atelier était d’examiner, de modifier et d’adopter les outils stratégiques et opérationnels indispensables au bon fonctionnement du secrétariat technique de la plateforme. Cela comprenait notamment la finalisation du document stratégique de la plateforme, la rédaction d’un plan d’action concret, ainsi que l’élaboration d’un plan de communication interne et externe. Mme Horline Njiké, secrétaire générale du Field Legality Advisory Group(FLAG) et membre fondateur de la plateforme, a résumé les objectifs de l’atelier comme suit : «valider et convenir des principes, critères et indicateurs nécessaires à une OIF solide et opérationnel pour les membres de la plateforme ».

    En savoir plus sur la Plateforme africaine d’Observation Indépendante(PA-OI).

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  • Regional strategic development for pan-African network of forest monitoring organisations

    17 September 2019
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    With the financial and technical support of the EU funded CV4C project managed by CIDT, the project partner, Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG) successfully organised a regional strategic development workshop for the Pan African independent forest monitoring network (PA-OI). The workshop in Kribi, Cameroon- from 21-26 July 2019.

    The workshop comprised two days of technical capacity building focused on technical investigations related to forestry crimes, illicit financial flows and transnational criminality. These sessions aimed to introduce technical competencies from forest law enforcement to enhance approaches to Independent Forest Monitoring. Facilitated by leading figures in regional environmental law enforcement in Africa, the training offered strategies and actions to fight illegal forestry exploitation, economic and financial crimes, and forest crime investigation techniques.

    Following the training, a strategic planning workshop was facilitated for the African Platform of Independent Observation (PA-OI), a network bringing together 11 civil society organisations from across the Congo Basin, to share knowledge, experience and collaborate on issues related to Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM). The main objective of the workshop was to review, amend and adopt the strategic and operational tools necessary for operation of the technical secretariat of the platform. This included the finalisation of the platform’s strategic document, drafting a concrete action plan, and the development of an internal and external communication plan. Ms Horline Njiké, the Secretary General of the Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG) and a founding member of the platform, summarised the workshop objectives to “validate and agree on the principles, criteria and indicators necessary for an operational and solid IFM for the platform members”.

    Learn more about the African Platform of Independent Observation (PA-OI).

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  • CIDT expert joins UN technical working group on sustainable forest management, production and trade

    12 June 2019
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    FAO technical working group

    The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) convened a Technical Working Group (TWG) of 20 international experts to discuss, agree and refine guiding legal elements in relation to sustainable forest management, production and trade. CIDT’s Dr Aurelian Mbzibain was invited to participate in this first TWG meeting in Rome from the 14-15 May 2019. The meeting, which included lawyers and practitioners in forest management, timber production and trade, gender equality in forestry, customary law, natural resource legislation, land and forest tenure, and employment rights, was officially opened by Ewald Rametsteiner, Deputy Director of the FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division. The meeting was also attended by Serge Moukouri, representing FLAG, a partner on the CV4C project.

    Over the past 15 years, timber-producing regions have scaled up efforts to combat illegal logging and to improve the legality of timber production and trade. Illegal logging undermines efforts towards sustainable forest management and negatively affects a country’s ability to achieve broader sustainable development objectives, such as poverty alleviation, food security and climate change mitigation. Tackling trade in illegal timber is therefore critical to the achievement of Agenda 2030’s Sustainable Development Goals. In a joint report by FAO and the ITTO on forest law governance and compliance, flawed policy and legal frameworks were recognised as an important issue in two-thirds of country reports for West Africa. Importantly, this was also considered a challenge for civil society and the private sector.

    A key challenge to define timber legality is the identification of relevant national sectoral laws and regulations. Because of the complexity of the timber value chain, illegality can arise from a violation of sectoral laws and regulations beyond forestry law alone. National laws and regulations place obligations on the various actors along the timber value chain which – depending on countries – may or may not be part of the legality check at the point of export. This situation may create challenges for timber producers, exporters, importers and compliance officers in timber exporting and importing countries who sometimes lack information on national legal requirements around timber production and trade.

    The Japanese government has recently funded, through FAO, a two-year project entitled ‘Enhancing knowledge and capacity around forest-related legislation and timber legality’, which supported the TWG to meet. Keynote presentations to the TWG were delivered by Daphne Hewitt and Daniele Lenci, FAO Project Leads.

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  • Awareness grows on external independent observation in the Republic of Congo

    20 March 2019
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    Workshop in Republic of Congo

    A workshop in Brazzaville brought together the public administration (Ministry of Forestry Economy, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Labor and Social Security), the private sector (AITBT, IFO, Thanry-Congo), parliamentarians (national assembly and senate), justice professionals (magistrates, lawyer), police, and civil society organizations, to discuss and exchange around the implementation of an independent External Forest Monitoring (IFM). 

    Known by its French acronym ‘SNOIE’ (Système Normalisé d’Observation Indépendante Externe) is a set of monitoring processes for the exploitation of natural resources based on an international standard; including observation, verification, communication and lobbying. It consists of documenting and denouncing violations linked to the exploitation of natural resources, monitoring and disseminating the decisions of the competent authorities.

    Thirty stakeholders participated in a two-day awareness workshop organised in Brazzaville aimed to inform and educate stakeholders on Independent External Forest Monitoring (IFM) and the process of developing a standardized system SNOIE based on ISO 9001: 2008 updated to ISO 9001: 2015.

    Lilian Laurin BARROS, Project Manager and Permanent Secretary of CJJ in the Republic of Congo reported on the recommendations emerging from the two days of discussions and exchanges with the various stakeholders at the level of Parliamentarians; forest administration; civil society and other stakeholders. Read more on the CV4C website.

    Workshop in Republic of Congo

    The future stages of development of SNOIE-Congo were presented, including:

    • Testing, improvement and validation of the SNOIE-Congo through: adaptation or development of tools and acquisition of work equipment; NGO training; pre-validation; testing and improving the system; system validation and skill upgrading.
    • The implementation of SNOIE-Congo: the realization of external observation missions; training of internal auditors and support for management review; the validation of the skills of the internal auditors and the carrying out of the external audit.

    The workshop was supported by the project ‘Strengthening forest monitoring and law enforcement in the Congo Basin / CV4C – FGMC’, funded by the European Union and DFID, and organised by the NGO Comptoir Juridique Junior (CJJ), in partnership with the Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT), at Edmond Hôtel de Brazzaville.  

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  • New satellite tool to fight illegal logging in the Congo Basin

    25 February 2019
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    Over the last 50 years, tropical forested countries in West Africa have lost most of their forest area due to changes in land use and unsustainable logging. Despite many efforts by stakeholders, uncontrolled illegal logging and land conversion has led to deforestation levels, which have doubled or even tripled in Central and West Africa in the last five years. However thanks to real-time satellite forest monitoring in another part of the world – Brazil –  deforestation levels have reduced by 80% compared to 2004.

    This evidence and the needs expressed by national partners and stakeholders led CIDT to the exploration of satellite-based tools for forest monitoring and the development of the FLEGT Watch platform with technical partners Visio-Terra.

    “This tool will make it possible to monitor the conversion of forests into landscapes, protected areas and targeted agro-food concessions.” Project Manager Serge Riazanoff, Visio Terra

    Flegt Watch is an automated satellite monitoring and mapping system for environmental and resource management which will provide  users with  real-time information on land cover, forest cover, changes detected, fires, and hydrology. This platform provides new data less than 3 hours after satellite observation, in the form of visual and geo-referenced alerts, received on tablets and smartphones.

    This platform will be accessible to a wide variety of actors including Civil Society Organisations, Independent Forest Watchers, research networks, government agencies, citizens such as farmers among others. The platform was presented to stakeholders in December 2018 in Yaoundé, Cameroon. After several end-user training sessions in Central and West Africa, FLEGT Watch will be deployed and will enter its operational phase.

    The platform will be implemented by VisioTerra France, University of Wolverhampton, Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT) and Tropenbos International TBI Netherlands. It is funded by the European Union through Citizens Voices for Change project in the Congo Basin, and the Capacity building of non-state actors to improve FLEGT-VPA and REDD + processes in West Africa.

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  • International development experts scoop award

    1 February 2019
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    CIDT's Sarah Thomas with colleagues in Liberia

    International development experts at the University of Wolverhampton have received an award for their work supporting forest governance improvements in Liberia.

    The Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT) was awarded the Forest Governance Award by the NGO Coalition of Liberia.

    The award recognises the work of CIDT to “support, strengthen and advocate on Forest, Environment and Land right issues in the Republic of Liberia and Africa”.

    This involves strengthening governance and institutional reform within the forestry sector in order to amplify the voice of forest-dependent communities and protect endangered environments.

    Sarah Thomas, Senior Consultant for CIDT, said:

    “It really is a huge honour and we are absolutely delighted to have received this award. CIDT staff have been working in the forest sector in Liberia in various capacities for nearly a decade now and we are also privileged to have hosted a great number of Liberian students on our ‘Improving Forest Governance’ course (2010-2016).

    “We are extremely proud to have forged such a strong and constructive partnership with the NGO Coalition of Liberia through this work and to have contributed, in some small way, to the development of this important institution and, through them, to the promotion of improved forest governance in Liberia.”

    CIDT’s work in Liberia formed part of an EU/DFID funded project to reduce illegal logging and promote more transparent and inclusive governance of the forest sector. As part of the project CIDT has been providing institutional development support to Civil Society and community organisations, strengthening both their oversight function and their contribution to the multi-stakeholder decision-making process in Liberia.

    This article first published at: https://www.wlv.ac.uk/staff/news/january-2019/international-development-experts-scoop-award.php.

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  • CIDT’s achievements in forest governance presented at forest partnership meeting

    7 December 2018
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    Aurelian Mbzibain presents at CBFP

    CIDT’s Dr Aurelian Mbzibain and Daniela Baur attended the 18th Meeting of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership Parties on 27-28 November 2018 in Brussels, Belgium.

    As a core leader of Forest governance in the Congo Basin region, Dr Aurelian Mbzibain, on behalf of CIDT, with World Resources Institute summarised key themes and initiatives that have taken place over the last year, and outlined priorities for the future.

    Discussions and actions throughout the past year are organised into three priority areas recommended by participants at the previous meeting of the Parties in Douala:

    • Integrated land management
    • Timber markets and legality
    • Participatory forestry.

    Aurelian Mbzibain presents at CBFPDiscussion on these priority themes continued throughout the year in a series of meetings including the Forest Legality Week in Washington DC, and the Forest Governance Forum in Brazzaville in October, among others. Key recommendations included calls:

    • To implement the Brazzaville road map on participatory forestry;
    • For cross sectoral coordination in land use planning and the use of earth observation tools for decision making
    • For improving transparency and voice and strengthening forest legality and law enforcement
    • For Congo Basin governments and development partners to integrate timber legality in public procurement contracts and as a way of gradual regulation of domestic timber markets.

    View the communiqué (in French) presented to the CBFP Parties.

    CBFP organising parties reported that ‘the Brussels meeting comes at a time when the Congo Basin forests are facing increasingly complex and serious challenges: The region is also making a major “shift” in its economic model which is currently geared towards diversification driven by investments in territorial development related sectors such as mining, the food and agricultural industry, infrastructure and other large scale projects, bolstered by a strong drive for medium term emergence which was virtually absent at the time of the launch of the CBFP. There is an urgent need to establish better linkages between sustainable forest management strategies, conservation approaches and the region’s economic development objectives which in turn requires better opportunities for dialogue and commitment around relevant issues, including cross-cutting issues and follow-up of shared viewpoints.’

    The meeting convenes Heads of States, ministers and senior multilateral officials from around the world. It also attracts participants from international organisations, multilateral partners, civil society organisations and indigenous peoples, youth, women, media, academia, scientific community, private sector actors.

    With participants close to 400, discussions were held on a variety of topics relating to conservation of biodiversity, wildlife, climate change adaption, sustainable management of the Congo Basin forests as well as local development of the communities residing in the Congo Basin.

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