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Gabon’s new Forest Code: Latest draft submitted to Prime Minister

The latest version of the new Gabonese draft Forest Code has been officially submitted to the Prime Minister of Gabon, Daniel Ona Ondo.

The Forest Code is intended to ensure the sustainable development and management of forest and other natural resources. ClientEarth welcomes a number of elements included in the new draft concerning the rights of local communities.

Better integration of substantial and procedural rights of local communities

Positive evolutions in the new draft Forest Code – compared to the current Forest Code – include:

  • Forest communities’ customary and economical use rights are extended to the whole Gabonese territory. In addition, some forest areas are allocated to forest communities and communities can undertake community forestry activities.
  • The right to benefit sharing is expanded to new types of permits, and includes criminal sanctions when provisions related to benefit sharing are not complied with.
  • In terms of access to justice, local communities and civil society organisations can initiate a lawsuit on all criminal sanctions laid down in the draft Forest Code.
  • Communities’ procedural rights are broadened, as forest operators are required to carry out participatory mapping of communities’ use rights within permit allocation and management processes.

Civil society’s role in improvements to Gabon Forest Code

In Gabon, the Forest Code is the law regulating forest sector activities.

Initiated in 2011, the drafting of a new Forest Code followed several steps, and resulted in several successive drafts, each of which civil society analysed and provided comments on – to various extents. The bill, if passed, will replace and repeal the current Forest Code – Law n°16/2001 of 31 December 2001.

Martial Djinang, ClientEarth in-country Associate in Gabon, said: “Civil society played an important role in reinforcing communities’ rights in the Forest Code revision process by providing analyses and proposals that, ultimately, resulted in a better new draft Forest Code.”

After advocating for a more participative process, the civil society platform ‘Gabon Ma Terre Mon Droit’ was invited to take part in a multi-stakeholder committee, during which the administration, the private sector and civil society produced an agreed draft.

Following the writing of the draft Forest Code, the next steps should include a process of drafting implementing regulations to the Code to facilitate enforcement of the forest legislation.

ClientEarth hopes this process can happen with full consultation of all stakeholders, as any implementing regulations will be more effective if all stakeholders are able to participate in their drafting.

According to timelines provided by the Gabonese Ministry of Forests, the new draft Forest Code could be tabled in the National Assembly as soon as December 2016.

Benjamin Ichou, legal researcher in ClientEarth’s Climate & Forests Programme, said: “We are encouraged to see community rights increasingly reflected in the substance of Gabon’s new Forest Code. Determined work by participants from all sides engaged in its revision means the law is on track to show marked progress on the 2001 Code.”

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