In September 2019, environmental and human rights defenders from Africa and Asia came to the EU to sound the alarm over accelerating forest loss in the Congo Basin, West Africa and the Lower Mekong regions. Their message was clear, the EU must play a key role in finding global solutions if it is serious about protecting biodiversity and greening its policies. With a European Green Deal currently under construction, it is vital that southern voices be heard, because many EU policies and practices impact them.
Fern, with help from other EU NGOs, regularly facilitates policy dialogues between Southern Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), EU government and industry stakeholders. This year provided an opportunity to discuss the formidable public momentum behind protecting forests and the climate, and to share hopes and concerns about the proposed European Green Deal and Commission Communication to protect and restore the world’s forests.
The civil society leaders urged the EU to step up efforts to fight illegal logging and to reward progress in producing countries implementing a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA). The Congo Basin could quickly become a new frontier for conversion of forests for agrobusiness, Justin Kamga from FODER warned. “In Cameroon, the government recently awarded an agriculture permit in a former logging concession without following due process. Should we keep quiet on malpractices or push for greater accountability?”
Meeting with the Commission, the European External Action Service and Members of the European Parliament, the CSOs welcomed the new momentum on forests and the proposed European Green Deal, but feared that crucial support for international forests and for civil society’s watchdog role might shrink in the new EU budget.
In Bonn, they asked the German Competent Authority to uphold the EU’s commitment to giving FLEGT licenses a green lane to the EU market; to fail to do so would send the wrong signal to producer countries that have invested time and resources in cleaning up their sector and achieving the highest legal and sustainability standards for their timber.
Above: Organiser and speakers at ‘NDCs and Forests: Taking Stock and Moving Ahead’, including CIDTs Aurelian Mbzibain, who introduced CIDT, our work in the Congo Basin through the CV4C project and our work with the NDC Partnership.
At an event hosted by Coordination Sud and Fern in Paris, French Secretary of State Brune Poirson called on France and the EU to stop delaying action on deforestation, if it is serious about tackling climate change. The CSO leaders stressed the importance of transparent and inclusive processes for delivering the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and the VPAs. Hop Vu Thi Bich from Vietnam’s Centre for Sustainable Rural Development insisted, “In our countries, we cannot talk about working on the climate without improving forest governance and involving local communities.”
“Civil society needs to be part of the climate dialogue to build integrity in national solutions,” explained Christian Mounzéo from Rencontre pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme in Republic of the Congo.
In the coming months, the EU will develop proposals for its European Green Deal. The participants were clear that the EU and its partner countries must include forests and local livelihoods. Adequate funding support is required to address the forest crisis linked to the growing demand for commodities and arable land. Julie Weah of Foundation for Community Initiative in Liberia said, “We need to continue to strengthen our capacities to monitor forest activities and to have access to decisionmakers in the EU, to ensure local voices and aspirations, including those of women, are heard.”
Further first-hand testimony from tropical forest communities can be found in Fern’s new report, Our Forests, Our Lives; find the Declaration of civil society organisations from forested tropical countries here.
CIDT staff Sarah Thomas and Richard Nyirenda have recently returned from Papua New Guinea where they were delivering a two week training course on ‘Improving Forest Governance’ as part of the EU/Birdlife International project ‘Strengthening Non State Actor Involvement in Forest Governance in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea‘.
The Papua New Guinea course was designed for staff and key local stakeholders of the national partner organisation ‘Tenkile Conservation Alliance’ (TCA) and was held at their remote base in Lumi, in the Torricelli Mountain range. TCA is doing groundbreaking work, combining conservation with community development, to protect the region’s rainforest and biodiversity, including critically endangered species such as the Tenkile and Weimang tree kangaroos.
The first week of the course, attended by 40 TCA staff and local and provincial government representatives, explored key governance concepts and challenges including strategies for ensuring greater involvement of civil society and communities in forest sector policy decisions. Topics covered included forest governance assessment, corruption, climate change and REDD+. Course participants also discussed the importance of effective multi-stakeholder processes at all decision-making levels, and reflected on ways to improve the representation of forest dependent communities, including through enhanced advocacy, influencing and networking.
The second week of the course was a Training of Trainers delivered to 25 TCA staff, including community outreach and research officers, supporting them in the design and delivery of tailored training inputs for other groups. Staff worked on the design of courses on climate change, water, sanitation and health, and good governance, adapting materials and methodology to target community audiences.
Photos from the course
CIDT bid farewell to the 46 participants of the 2015 Improving Forest Governance, who returned to their 22 countries of origin to put new learning into practice. Mr Hugh Speechly closed the IFG course on behalf of the European Forestry Institute (EFI), one of the key course sponsors, along with DFID. Hugh emphasised six broad dimensions of governance, including voice and accountability, rule of law, control of corruption and regulatory quality. Echoing a recent Chatham House report, he noted that Governance reforms in many producer countries have slowed and getting back on track will require a step change in political commitment and willingness to tackle more difficult governance issues. Applying governance trends to participants’ own countries, he challenged the participants on what they could do to make a difference upon their return.
In the final weeks of the course, participants chose from optional modules on Forests and Climate Change, Training of Trainers, Project Proposal Writing and Gender in Forest Governance. These modules were designed deepen knowledge, but also to equip participants to share learning upon return. Working with a personal tutor, each participant developed a personal action plan, detailing concrete practical steps to contribute to improving forest governance upon return home.
CIDT wishes all alumni well and look forward to connecting again in six months, when we follow up on participant action plans and impact.
Images from the closing day of IFG 2015
International Forest Governance practitioners learn from the experience of Rwanda in climate compatible development
Mr Alex Mulisa, Coordinator of FONERWA, the Government of Rwanda National Fund for Environment and Climate Change visited Telford this Summer to speak to the Improving Forest Governance 2015 course.
Community or state-managed forestry? The Improving Forest Governance participants visit Cannock Chase and Wales to find out more
As part of the 6-week Improving Forest Governance course, 46 participants from 22 timber producing and processing countries undertook three field visits to Wales, Cannock Chase and Lathams Timber Yard.
Long Wood Community Woodland
On 13 June 2015 the IFG group headed to rural west Wales to visit a community woodland group. Long Wood Community Woodland is a 121 hectare site regarded as Plantation on Ancient Woodland (PAWS), which lies just north of Lampeter in County Ceredigion. Long Wood is a long-established group that has faced many challenges but remain a strong and cohesive group. IFG participants were hosted by the managing board and the staff for talks, and received tours of the woodland, sawmill and crafts with the local community group members.
The key themes of the study visit were to look at: how community forest management differs from state control; and look at the opportunities for communities to generate income from a woodland as a social enterprise. The group stayed in Aberystwyth, and were hosted by the community in the evening and received a wonderful performance from Cwmann & District Male Voice Choir.
Download the Long Wood Field Trip Guide.
On 18 Jun 2015 the IFG participants visited Cannock Chase to find out how the public forest estate is managed in England. Cannock Chase forest is a public (government) forest managed by the Forestry Commission (FC), and is utilized for recreational purposes, timber production and conservation. The IFG group met local staff to find out how key long term decisions are taken and implemented, and in particular to hear about how forest management planning handles competing priorities for the long-term benefit of both people and the environment.
The key themes of this study visit were to look at the governance of public forests in England; forest management planning and consultation; certification of timber, recreation and the social role of public forests and how the FC responds to climate change.
- Download the Cannock Chase Field Trip Guide.
- Download the Cannock Chase PowerPoint presentation given by Alastair Semple
- View Cannock Chase Forest Plans and Forestry Commission publications.
Latham’s Timber Yard
On 17th June as part of the module on Developing Trade Incentives, IFG participants were hosted by James Latham’s Timber Yard, in Dudley. The theme of the visit was to learn about how a UK company imports sustainable and legal timber, and the processes and systems through which that is realized.
CIDT’s Improving Forest Governance participants take part in the Illegal Logging Update at Chatham House
CIDT was proud to take our 46 Improving Forest Governance (IFG) participants to the 25th Illegal Logging Update and Stakeholder Consultation Meeting at Chatham House on 25th June.