Parliamentarians from the Republic of Congo met with members of Congolese civil society and ClientEarth at the Ministry of Justice in February for a roundtable discussion on forest conversion and community forestry.
The meeting was held at a time when there is ongoing legal reform in the Republic of Congo and ahead of the upcoming vote on the new Forest Code in the Congolese Parliament.
Parliamentarians who attended the meeting are part of a network of decision-makers in Central Africa who push for sustainable forests.
The network, called REPAR, work to help parliamentarians formulate and implement forest laws that take into account the interests of local and indigenous people. They also ensure the issues of illegal logging and climate change are raised at the highest level.
ClientEarth forests lawyer Tanja Venisnik said: “It is extremely important that decision-makers have a good knowledge and understanding of forest issues to make decisions that will ensure sustainable forest governance and enhance community rights in the Republic of Congo.”
“The roundtable went very well and the parliamentarians expressed great interest in meeting again to further develop their knowledge on forest conversion and community forestry.”
The meeting, which was co-organised with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), raised certain issues around the legal reform process, specifically about two key chapters of the draft Forest Code – on forest conversion and community forestry.
We discussed specific amendments proposed by civil society to strengthen legal frameworks around forest conversion.
The inadequacies of current legislative proposals around community forestry were highlighted. Current proposals do not provide for community forestry to exist in a way that is truly developed and led by the communities themselves.
In the most recent draft of the Forest Code, community forests are limited to certain areas which have already been designated by logging companies within forest concessions granted by the State.
ClientEarth in-country associate Gady Inès Mvoukani said: “Forest conversion and community forestry are two important issues that deserve special attention. They should be regulated by strong legal frameworks in order to ensure sustainable forests governance and respect for community rights.”
Since 2012, ClientEarth and civil society have been working on the legal reform of forestry issues in the Republic of Congo, inputting into various drafts of the forest code (2013 and 2014) and into implementing decrees.
The new Forest Code is now in its final drafting stages and will go before the Congolese Parliament to a vote.
ClientEarth will continue to work with this network of parliamentarians in the Republic of Congo.