As part of their participation at COP 27, Fern and the European Forest Institute organised a side event titled ‘Climate Finance for Forests and Communities in the Congo Basin: progress and challenges’, on 15 November. It was organised in collaboration with the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC), the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) and Transparency International.
The side event focused on the importance of mobilising adequate and financial resources to support forest protection in the Congo Basin to address the multiple challenges facing these forests and the needs of local communities.
Representatives from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), and civil society advocates from the African Community Rights Network (ACRN) and Transparency International had an opportunity to take stock of financial commitments for the Congo Basin, and discussed their impacts on forests and forest peoples.
Governance must be front and centre
Brice Boehmer from Transparency International articulated that governance barriers are hindering successful climate action. This is resulting in fragmented and uncoordinated approaches, unaligned climate and development agendas and elite capture of climate finance. Research from Fern and Transparency International shows that forest climate finance flows in Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Indonesia, and Peru specifically are far from transparent and inclusive. The impact on forest resilience and local communities and Indigenous Peoples’ rights and livelihoods has been meagre to date. Mr Boehmer recommended that policy makers scale up climate finance for forests and address corruption risks in funding mechanisms.
Climate action that benefits everyone
The implementation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) which kickstarted with the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021 provides an opportunity to direct adequate climate finance to forest protection and restoration. For Maixent Agnimbat from the African Community Rights Network (ACRN), and Guy Kajemba from Groupe de Travail Climat REDD – Rénové (GTCRR) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), civil society and Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) have a crucial role to play in shaping and implementing climate commitments. However, experience in the Republic of Congo and the DRC show that forest communities have not heard about NDCs, and their countries’ climate commitments. There is a long road ahead for forest defenders to be meaningfully engaged in the delivery of climate plans. For this to happen, civic space, dedicated funding mechanisms and capacity will be key. Mr. Agnimbat and Emeka both called on their governments and international partners to provide direct financial support to local initiatives such as community led forestry and restoration, and small-scale agriculture to reduce pressure of forests and strengthen women and Indigenous Peoples’ livelihoods.
Equitable and inclusive partnerships with forested countries are indispensable
Speaking on behalf of the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), Danae Maniatis explained that through a Letter of Intent (such as the ones concluded with the DRC, Gabon and the Republic of Congo), the CAFI Executive Board and the government of the partner country agree on objectives and timebound targets in policy reform and programmatic performance. They also agree to the corresponding financial support. The initiative secured US$ 800 million since 2015 to support partner countries to develop and present their national investment frameworks, addressing all drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. Mrs. Maniatis noted that DRC offers a case study of potential ways forward. She spoke about a flagship programme in the DRC “PIREDD” or programmes intégrés REDD+ provinciaux, through which CAFI works with local governments and communities to develop green developments plans that build on a long-term vision for inclusive and sustainable land use. The plans developed at village level have provided additional official recognition of past agreements, thus contributing to land tenure security for farmers and communities.
While civil society groups and beneficiaries hail such initiatives, they believe that funding is still insufficient to compete with industrial logging, mining, and oil. What is to be done then? The most important step is to ensure that countries in the Congo Basin including local forest communities have the right partnerships, tools, and support to solve the climate and forests conundrum, and chart a course of action that will benefit the region’s invaluable biodiversity and people.
See also the civil society film on Climate Finance: Will it Make or Break Forest Protection and Forest Peoples’ Rights?