On the opening of a government workshop in Kinshasa on the post-conversion process concerning DRC forest titles, international non-governmental organisations Global Witness, Greenpeace and Rainforest Foundation urge international donors to prevent the reversal of forest sector reforms that aim to increase transparency and legality and ensure that the conclusions of the Inter-Ministerial Commission (IMC), responsible for the review and conversion of eligible logging titles, be enforced. At the very moment when the Congolese government and international partners should be strengthening forest policies and law enforcement, and resolving outstanding conflicts related to logging, Congolese government authorities are instead signalling their intent to back-track on decisions and expand industrial logging activities in the DRC. Such a move would jeopardize progress made through the conversion process, demonstrate a disregard for the rights of local communities, undermine efforts to reduce deforestation and degradation and thwart opportunities for the DRC to benefit from climate-related payments.
Since 2007, our organisations have been urging the Congolese government, foreign donors and international organisations to prepare for the post-conversion phase. We urged donors to ensure that adequate funds and capacity were available to include social and environmental impact assessments in the review of logging activities and, at its conclusion, enforce the decisions of the legal review. This would include dismantling illegal logging operations, resolving outstanding social conflicts and financing re-employment programmes. Congolese civil society organisations, the Independent Observer of the review process, and the World Bank’s own Inspection Panel have all pointed to flaws in the conversion process and called for stricter – not more lax – application of the law. Now, it seems these calls are being ignored. International donors must urge the government to implement the IMC decisions, urgently address outstanding social conflicts, and reaffirm the moratorium on the allocation of new logging concessions, as requested by Congolese civil society organisations in a recent statement and in an open letter from indigenous peoples’ groups.