For DR Congo’s forests, legislation is only part of the solution

by Thomas Hubert | @tom_hubert | CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research)
Friday, 24 May 2013 08:35 GMT

The DRC has made a major effort to get their forestry legislation in order. But implementation of these regulations on the ground will need significant improvement. Photo courtesy of Ollivier Girard/CIFOR.

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Legislation enacted in the past decade to slow forest loss in the Democratic Republic of Congo is innovative, but implementing it remains a challenge

Legislation enacted in the past decade to slow forest loss in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is innovative, but implementing it remains a challenge according to a new report.

Released today, a new publication by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Kinshasa-based Council for the Defense of the Environment through Legality and Traceability (CODELT) analyzed the legal framework for governing the world’s second-largest rainforest.

They say that the DRC has made a major effort to get their forestry legislation in order.

The 2002 Forestry Code – the government’s first effort to develop a new vision of forest resource management – replaced colonial-era rules and regulations, and laid down the groundwork for sustainable, socially responsible forest management.

“It’s a beautiful instrument,” said Augustin Mpoyi, executive director of CODELT and one of the authors of the new report.

“It provides for forest titles for local communities, which is very innovative; commercial licenses should go through public tenders; it organizes revenue sharing; and regulations for its application have been published.”

But, he added, implementation of these regulations on the ground will need to make significant improvements.

The UN-backed scheme Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD+, has been seeking since 2005 to find ways to pay developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America to leave their forests standing. Trees sequester carbon, which is emitted when they are cut or burned – deforestation results in more annual greenhouse-gas emissions globally than emissions from the entire global transport sector.

Given its newly enacted regulations, the DRC is an ideal candidate for REDD+, the study says: The Forestry Code also seeks to conserve 15 percent of the country’s 1.5 million square kilometers of forested area and the participation of all stakeholders in management of these resources; an extensive review of logging permits resulted in some companies being banned; and the government has ratified 28 international environmental conventions.

“Unfortunately, however,” Mpoyi said, “implementation of many of these policies has been riddled with problems.”

Mpoyi and his colleagues warned of unpunished corruption in the Congolese administration, which risks REDD+ funds and other benefits being mismanaged. The DRC trails at the end of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, coming in at 164th of 178 countries.

At the same time, government offices tasked with forest management are “under-funded, under-staffed and in need of experts with up-to-date professional competence,” said Theodore Trefon, a Congo affairs expert at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. They also lacked data management systems and basic equipment such as phones and computers, he said.

The report’s authors concur: “Though the government has in recent years sought to win back legitimacy after decades of war, the administration is struggling to build the capacity it needs to enforce legislation.”

As part of legislative efforts to decentralize the Congolese administration since the 2006 Constitution, small-scale timber extraction should now be managed exclusively by provincial authorities, the authors say.

But moves toward government efficiency and accountability have been slow to materialize, Trefon said.

This issue was discussed at the two-day conference Sustainable forest management in Central Africa: Yesterday, today and tomorrow Yaounde, Cameroon. 22-23 May, 2013.

For more stories on the future of Central Africa’s forests, visit

“The fiscal revenues that should accrue to communities from forestry activity often remain illusionary because loggers pay their taxes to a central government with no tradition of transparency or accountability.”

The authors of the DRC country profile concluded, however, that the many actions a country needs to take to successfully implement REDD+ could help stimulate remodeling of the principles, standards and strategies of land use, forestry, mining and agriculture and infrastructural development in the DRC.

“International actors and national forces need to ensure the return of public order in the DRC as well as establish the authority of a legitimate state and social peace based on democratic principles,” they said.

For more information on the issues discussed in this article, please contact Samuel Assembe at

This research is carried out as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and was supported by the Department for International Development (DFID), AusAid, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and the European Commission.