Gabon has today officially approved a step-by-step guide designed to help ensure communities share in the profits from timber harvesting in their area. The guide has been developed through years of work by civil society groups, with the support of ClientEarth.
Flore Joséphine Mistoul Yame, the Gabonese Minister for Forests, praised the Technical Guide on Benefit Sharing Agreements during a workshop in Libreville, Gabon. A preface will be added by the Ministry in the coming weeks.
The government’s endorsement is promising news for forest communities in Gabon. It opens the way for more communities to share in forest harvesting revenues, as Gabonese law requires they must. It is also a win for civil society involvement in forest policy.
Benjamin Ichou, legal researcher at ClientEarth, said: “The fact that the Ministry of Forests officially endorses the Technical Guide is very encouraging. It was developed by civil society through multi-stakeholder dialogue, with the input of a legal working group supported by ClientEarth.
“The Ministry’s endorsement shows once again that civil society organisations can provide strong and meaningful contributions to forest governance processes.”
What does the Guide achieve?
The Technical Guide approved by the government today provides a step-by-step guide to how benefit sharing agreements should be signed and implemented – it explains what needs to be done to follow the law.
When fully implemented, these agreements will allow local communities to share in revenues generated from timber harvesting. This is done by setting up a development fund. The Guide aims to ensure that local communities meaningfully participate in the development and signing of such agreements, and that they have a say in the creation of local development projects financed by the development fund.
Since 2001, the Gabonese Forest Code has legally required companies with permission to harvest timber to share resulting revenues with local communities. The implementing decree, published 13 years later, built on this and proposed a benefit sharing agreement template. But combined, these two texts still did not provide enough detail to make benefit sharing happen in practice. In 2014, the Ministry of Forests requested a guiding document for the implementing decree. The result is the Technical Guide validated today – prepared by civil society with support from ClientEarth, and in consultation with stakeholders.
Grace Ollomo, ClientEarth in-country associate in Gabon, said: “Though it is a victory, there is still a long way to go, because this is a new process. Capacity-building and follow-up with stakeholders is essential for it to be effective in the whole country. Making sure that people can take ownership of the mechanism is what will make this law work in practice.”