This is the Central African Republic update for Forest watch special: VPA update November 2016.
Official VPA status: implementation since 2012
In March 2016, CAR held successful and transparent presidential and parliamentary elections, closing one of the darkest pages of its troubled history. CAR citizens are hopeful that their nascent democracy holds a brighter future. Members of the local civil society platform Plateforme pour la Gestion Durable des Ressources Naturelles et de l’Environnement (GDRNE), actively reached out to presidential candidates including organising a roundtable on the VPA and forest governance and welcomed the inauguration of Faustin Archange Touadera, CAR’s new President. Touadera is remembered by forest governance advocates for signing and championing the VPAs and they hope that the country’s vast natural resources will be managed more equitably and sustainably under his leadership.
The VPA process is slowly resuming, and formal multi-stakeholder meetings between all stakeholders were held during the transition and in July to discuss pressing implementation priorities. An official Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) meeting was held in late August with the new Forest Minister to take stock of challenges and progress, and to update CAR’s VPA roadmap. Discussions are ongoing between the government and the EU about a tightened roadmap including for developing of the timber legality assurance system (TLAS), and financial support.
The GDRNE platform remains an important driving force for the VPA. With several new permits being awarded to logging companies, it was important for civil society groups to ensure that these newly established logging companies in the CAR are informed about the VPA process and implementation. In May, a group of organisations teamed up with the VPA focal point to organise a sensitisation tour to Centra Bois, Timberland Industries and Sinfocam to discuss companies’ and other stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities in the process, the TLAS, and companies’ social and environmental obligations. This was felt useful by both companies and the local forest administration who acknowledge that the lack of information on the VPA could significantly hinder them in participating effectively.
A number of independent monitoring test missions were conducted in Batalimo, Bayanga, and Bimbo counties, to assess whether some of the requirements of VPA legality grid (such as community consultation and compensation for damage) were effectively respected, and to train communities in denouncing illegalities. The monitoring reports generated a lot of interest and reaction from the forest administration and logging companies including around what constitutes severe or minor infractions, and the role of civil society versus the forest administration in monitoring law enforcement. A meeting was held with various stakeholders in May to explain GDRNE’s strategy when it comes to forest monitoring and how monitoring can be used for improving forest governance. In addition to this monitoring work, civil society actors have been developing a mechanism to ensure direct participation of community and indigenous people representatives in the VPA structures in line with the VPA requirements. Awareness-raising trips are planned in all of the forest areas to consult with community members and agree selection criteria, and a mandate for their future representatives.
This is an entry from the latest Forest Watch special VPA update, an occasional publication by LoggingOff and Fern. The VPA update provides a roundup of developments across countries involved in VPA processes, from a civil society perspective. This edition is from November 2016.