This is the Republic of Congo update for Forest watch special: VPA update November 2016.
Official VPA status: in implementation since 2013
Congo has been facing severe political and social unrest following the constitutional referendum of 2015 and the subsequent presidential elections of March 2016. Progress can be noticed on the VPA ‘technical’ front with ongoing development of the Système Informatisé de Vérification de la Légalité (Computerised TLAS), and communications. A number of TLAS modules are available online and field tests are being rolled out and will involve several pilot companies including IFO and SEFYD in the Sangha, Congo ASIA and SFIB in Niari and EFC to Pointe Noire. The Ministry of Forest Economy resumed publication of its newsletter covering VPA activities, and the technical joint group meetings provide a space for stakeholders to continue sharing information about progress. A meeting of the joint implementation committee was held in mid-May to update the 2016-2017 work plan and finalise the national FLEGT/VPA 2015 progress report.
Civil society groups remain concerned that the forest reform is stalled and that adoption of the new Forest Code is being delayed. Nonetheless, civil society has worked on concrete proposals for implementing decrees including on companies’ social obligations and community usage rights. The independent CSO forest monitor CAGDF produced additional reports on the Cuvette and Cuvette Ouest departments looking at the logging operations of Wang Sam Resources and Congo Deija Woods. The reports highlight numerous illegalities and urge the forest administration to undertake field missions to assess illegalities and strengthen forest officials’ ability to ensure proper enforcement of forestry laws and regulations. A briefing note on the illegalities surrounding six new forest permits awarded among others to CIB was published in August triggering local CSO concerns that systemic infractions persist in the forest sector in breach of the VPA. Independent CSO monitoring has also helped human rights organisations such as OCDH to denounce companies that fail to meet their social obligations in their annual report published in 2016, and support communities to claim their rights.
There is hope that the Minister of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development Mrs. Rosalie Matondo who was given the portfolio of Forest Economy will provide strong leadership on forest governance and strengthening linkages between the VPA and REDD+ processes now that Congo is moving to the REDD+ readiness phase and set to submit its Emission Reduction Programme Note. Fern local partners Azur and FGDH are collaborating with the VPA and REDD+ civil society platform to conduct independent monitoring missions in the Sangha to look at how well FPIC and benefits sharing arrangements under the VPA and REDD+ are implemented in practice. A multi-stakeholder workshop was held in Brazzaville in May to approve the focus and methodology of the monitoring and identify the CSO representatives and parliamentarians who will be contributing to the monitoring work and advocating for improvements locally and at national level. Findings from the first mission in the Jua Ekié logging concession in July noted the lack of consultation and adequate compensation for most local communities impacted by logging activities and mining exploration in the middle of forest concessions. A TV debate and meeting with various stakeholders were held in September and October to present this work and convey policy recommendations to decision makes.
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.