REDD+ projects 1
Other readiness initiatives 9
Forest cover High
Deforestation rate Low

Republic of Congo

REDD in Republic of Congo

The Republic of Congo is located in the heart of the Congo Basin, which is the second largest tropical forest basin in the world after the Amazon. The Republic of Congo is a country with high forest cover and a low rate of deforestation (0.08%) (UN-REDD, 2012 and FAO, 2010).

The direct drivers of deforestation in the Republic of Congo include the development of infrastructure (roads for commercial logging and mining), agricultural expansion (due in part to shifting cultivation), the development of bioenergy, and the activities of extractive industries related to mining, gas and oil. In addition, illegal logging is significant, especially in the south of the country (Bombelli et al. 2009). Forest degradation is also a concern, caused mainly by small scale logging for firewood. Among the indirect causes of deforestation, are a fast growing population and a lack of alternative energy sources for low-income populations. If left unresolved, these direct and indirect drivers will lead to a sharp increase in the rates of deforestation and will accelerate the reduction in forest cover over the coming years. (WRI. 2013)

The Republic of Congo is a country that has played an important role in Central Africa since the colonial period due to its geographical location, particularly as a platform for the transit of goods and raw materials. The Atlantic coastline of the country is 170 km long, and hosts the port of Pointe Noire, the second economic capital of Congo after Brazzaville, where Congolese oil is refined. The Republic of Congo is now the 4th African oil producing country. Hydrocarbons account for 90% of GDP and 85% of government revenue (CIFOR, 2012). After hydrocarbons, forests are the 2nd most important natural resource of the country (World Bank, 2012). However, compared with some neighbouring countries such as Cameroon and the Central African Republic, the share of the forestry sector in the national economy remains relatively low. In 2007, the sector's contribution to GDP was 5.6%, and represented 7,424 direct jobs (CIFOR, 2012). The estimated value of exported Congolese wood and its derivatives is around 250 million Euros per year with the main export markets being the European Union and China (African Economic Outlook, 2008). Like many African countries, which have historically depended on oil exports for growth, the transition to an economy less dominated by oil (due to dwindling oil reserves) is likely to have an impact on the forest sector.

Since its independence in 1960, the country has developed and implemented a number of initiatives for forest management as well as some reforestation programmes. Forest Management Units (FMUs) were established in the 1970s as the basic administrative unit for the execution of management activities, including conservation, restoration and forest production. There are currently 34 FMUs, ranging from 200,000 to 1 million hectares in size. Despite the existence of some development plans, few have actually been implemented due to weaknesses in governance capacity, a situation that was exacerbated by the civil war that began in 1993.

Since the end of the civil war in 1997, the Republic of Congo has taken steps to encourage the development of a diversified and sustainable national economy and improve its forest management. In 2000, Law no.16-2000 of 20 November 2000 on the Forest Code was adopted to initiate a process for the development of a national strategy for the sustainable management of forests, to protect forest ecosystems from overexploitation (Act No.16-2000). The law anticipates the development of forest inventories and the preparation and implementation of management plans for all FMUs in the country.

Logging in Congo is now fully managed by the private sector, including large commercial operators but also many small and medium enterprises. The country is becoming a major exporter of tropical timber to Europe and several roads are being built to facilitate production (Poulsen et al. 2009).

The administrative distribution of the Republic of Congo is governed by Law No. 3-2000 of 2000 governed by the principles of devolution and decentralization. However, much still needs to be done to ensure the effective management of the land in its entirety. One obstacle to efficient management is the fact that the mandates of some government departments overlap: forests are managed by the Ministry of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development (MEFDD) but this is not the case of the environment, which is now managed by the Ministry Environment and Tourism.

Given that different departments have the authority to grant different types of concessions (forestry, mining) and do so without communicating, this has resulted in overlapping concessions. Decree No. 2009-304 establishing an inter-ministerial coordination committee to resolve issues of overlap in concessions was passed by the President as a response to this problem. A project to map and create inventories of multiple forest resources is currently (2013) being led by the National Centre for Surveys and Forest and Fauna Resources Management (CNIAF) to address issues of overlapping use and to inform the development of an integrated land use plan.

The Republic of Congo is a member of the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC) and a signatory of the Convergence Plan for improved management and conservation of forests in Central Africa (February 2006), which was ratified by Law n.35- 2006 of October 26, 2006. In June 2008, the Republic of Congo began negotiations with the European Union (EU) to enter into a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) under the FLEGT (Forest Law initiative, Governance and Trade) initiative, which aims to ensure the legality of timber exports to the EU. In May 2010, the Republic of Congo signed a FLEGT VPA with the EU, with the aim of improving governance in the forest sector (FLEGT Briefing Note. 2010). Activities required by the VPA can also potentially contribute to the objectives of REDD + (capacity building of local actors, local non-governmental organisations, and local communities).

The Republic of Congo is a member of two multilateral REDD+ mechanisms: the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the United Nations collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in developing countries (UN-REDD) a partnership between the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Republic of Congo began its REDD+ readiness activities in 2008, by submitting its REDD+ Project Idea Note (R-PIN) to the FCPF as a REDD+ pilot country. The Republic of Congo received $ 200,000 from the FCPF for the preparation of its R-PP, and benefited from the assistance of international NGOs such as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), for its drafting.

The Republic of Congo’s R-PP was originally approved by the FCPF Participants Committee in June 2010. However, the document met with considerable opposition (the details of which are discussed in the section entitled ‘stakeholders engagement and participation'). Following this opposition, the Republic of Congo was forced to submit an improved R-PP, which was ratified in 2011 with a grant of $ 3.4 million. The implementation of the R-PP activities financed by the FCPF began in early 2012.

In 2011 the country was also identified as a priority country in Africa by the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board, and was invited to submit a technical and financial proposal to strengthen and co-finance the implementation of the R-PP in addition to the FCPF ($ 200 000, followed by $ 3.4 million) and the Government’s support (which earmarked $600,000 for REDD+ preparations, spread over three years).

In October 2012, the country signed an agreement for the establishment of a UN-REDD National Programme. This agreement outlines the framework for cooperation between the Government of the Republic of Congo and each member of the UN-REDD member organisations (FAO, UNDP and UNEP). UN-REDD is contributing $ 4 million to the development of REDD+ in the Congo over the 2012-2014 period.

The R-PP outlines, among other things, the country's intention to carry out analytical studies on national drivers of deforestation and the possible options for the development of a legal and institutional framework for REDD+ (R-PP, 2011). A study has already been completed by civil society (CACO-REDD+) on the drivers of deforestation. This study will be used as a source of information for the government to assist in the preparation of its own study on the same subject. The study by the Government is currently underway, the REDD+ National Coordination body (CN-REDD) having hired the consultant in charge of the study in May 2013.

The REDD+ pilot project in the Pikounda North region is the only REDD+ pilot project currently underway in Congo. The developers of the project are aiming to have the project certified by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) in 2013. Other activities related to the assessment of forest cover have already taken place or are on-going and will inform the work related to MRV which is an essential component of the implementation of the REDD+ mechanism.

The Republic of Congo does not currently have a national REDD+ strategy, but a two year REDD+ programme has been developed by the CN-REDD which aims to contribute to its development.

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Institutional arrangements

The Ministry of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development (MEFDD) (formerly called the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Forest Economy and Environment - MDDEFE) is in charge of forest management at the national level and of managing the REDD+ process directly through its directorates-general (Directorate General for Sustainable Development and the Directorate General for Forest Economy). The latter directorate-general supervises the Forestry and Water Administration, which develops and implements state forest policy. The Ministry organised a National Forum on Sustainable Development in April 2013 in Brazzaville, which brought together more than 1,000 people to discuss issues of sustainable development and ways to integrate it into the various sectoral policies of the State.

The "Environment" branch of the MEFDD is now part of the Ministry of Tourism (Ministry of Environment and Tourism). Representatives of the Ministry of Environment attend international negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). At the national level, the Ministry is responsible for issues linked to environmental impact assessments and for the implementation of REDD+ safeguards.

Other ministries involved in the REDD+ process due to the nature of their activities, are the Ministries of Hydrocarbons, Mining, Agriculture and Livestock, Public Works, Energy, Planning, Finance, Land management, and Decentralisation.

The structures responsible for the management and coordination of REDD+ in the Republic of Congo are described in the R-PP (PP-R, 2011). These are the REDD+ National Committee (CONA-REDD) and the REDD+ National Coordination body (CN-REDD). As of May 2013, these structures have not yet been formally established by decree. CN-REDD is nevertheless considered as established, having already developed an action plan, recruited cell leaders and received funding from the FCPF to begin its operations.

CONA-REDD aims to act as the steering committee for REDD+ activities in the country and consists of members from relevant ministries, the private sector, civil society, indigenous representatives and delegates from the community level. As detailed in the R-PP, the main functions of CONA-REDD are to define the national strategic vision and potential REDD+ activities the Republic of Congo, to facilitate and oversee the national REDD+ debate among relevant stakeholders; arbitrate potential conflicts between these parties, and approve the budget and work programme of the CN-REDD.

CN-REDD is currently based in the MEFDD. It acts as the executive arm of CONA-REDD, and its role is to implement REDD+ readiness activities, to facilitate communication between different platforms for consultation and to prepare the sessions of CONA-REDD.

These structures will also be complemented by Departmental REDD+ Committees (REDD+ CODEPA) whose role will be to support the implementation of CONA-REDD’s decisions at the departmental level. The CODEPA-REDD will also be charged with managing the REDD+ debate between various stakeholders at the departmental level, to arbitrate disputes at this level and formulate and submit proposals to CONA-REDD.

Like other structures, the CODEPA-REDD are due to be created sometime in 2013. Current plans include the establishment of three 'pilot' CODEPA-REDD in the departments of Sangha, Likouala and in Niari.

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Stakeholder engagement and participation

According to UN-REDD, the REDD+ process in the Republic of Congo has seen a high level of mobilisation and a high degree of ownership from civil society (UN-REDD, 2011). However, while the FCPF’s Technical Advisory Panel was considering Congo’s R-PP, the Congolese Platform for Sustainable Forest Management criticised the lack of public participation in its formulation. The Congolese Platform for Sustainable Forest Management is a platform of civil society associations that participates in decision-making and discussions on forest-related issues either through formal interventions or by consultation.

The points of contention between the State and civil society in the first R-PP were on the links between REDD+ and FLEGT VPA; the civil society consultation mechanism and the drivers of deforestation. Additional pressure came from international NGOs such as Greenpeace, Global Witness and the Rainforest Foundation UK, which noted the lack of coherence and substance in the first R-PP in a statement that called on Congolese civil society to reject it (Rainforest Foundation UK, 2010). Following the opposition of national and international civil society, the Technical Advisory Panel demanded that the R-PP be re-submitted once the weaknesses identified in the document had been addressed.

The Interim Commission for Civil Society (CI-REDD) was established in 2010 with support from UN-REDD and FCPF as a single platform gathering all civil society groups concerned with issues related to the environment and forests. The CI-REDD was set up with the aim of having a proportion of at least 30% of female members.

In 2012, CI-REDD was replaced by the Consultation Framework for Congolese Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples Organisations on REDD+ (CACO-REDD), which in May 2013 had around 100 member organisations. The CACO-REDD was created following the need identified by the UN-REDD and FCPF to have a single contact point for civil society and indigenous peoples on issues related to REDD+. The CACO-REDD is composed of two pillars: the first serves as the focal point for civil society organisations, and the second for indigenous peoples.

In addition to these platforms, the Republic of Congo became the first African country to pass legislation to facilitate the participation of indigenous peoples in decision-making - Law No. 5-2011 of 25 February 2011 on the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples in the Republic of Congo (Law No. 5-2011). This law aims to reduce the stigma and discrimination against indigenous people who historically have almost never had representatives in village committees or departmental councils. Furthermore, villages comprised exclusively of indigenous peoples are not yet officially recognised by the local government.

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Land tenure arrangements and carbon rights

The right to property is guaranteed by Article 17 of the Constitution of the Republic of Congo. Any private person may own land if they have a land title. In the absence of a title, the presumption of public domain applies because under Congolese law, ownership of land is conditional on the acquisition of a written land title.

According to Article 3 of Law No. 16-2000 of 20 November 2000 on the Forest Code, the National Forest area includes the forest area of the State and the forest area belonging to private persons. The forest area of the State is divided between the permanent forest domain (this includes the forests of private domain of the State, public forests, community forests and other local authorities), and the non-permanent domain (this includes forests that have a protected status but are not classified, and remain in the public domain of the State). The permanent forest estate includes 39 Forest Management Units (FMU) which cover about 19 ​​million hectares, or more than 80% of the national forest area (WRI 2007).

Local people can become owners of private forests if they are located on land owned by them, or owners of private forest plantations if these forests were planted on land owned by the State (cf. art. 33 34, 35 16-2000 of 20 November 2000 on the Forest Code). Article 35 of the Law on the Forest Code indicates that the rights of the owners of private forests are recognised by the State "in accordance with the legislation in force" (i.e. law n ° 17-2000 of 30 December 2000 on the land).

In addition, Article 31 of Law No. 10-2004 of 26 March 2004 laying down the general principles applicable to federal land and plan proclaims the recognition of customary land rights for people occupying the land for 30 years. Unfortunately, this recognition is subjected to timely and costly fiscal and technical conditions. These conditions can rarely be met by local communities or members of indigenous people without capacity building or external support.

The R-PP suggests the strengthening security of tenure as one of the preliminary strategic options to develop for REDD+ (R-PP, 2011). This should take place through a plan called 'National Plan for the Allocation of Land (PNAF)' which should help to solve the problem of land tenure and facilitate the official recognition of customary access rights.

The issue of carbon rights is being discussed in Congo. In the first R-PP, the State had proposed that carbon should be defined as a 'natural resource', therefore belonging to the State. But civil society, disagreeing, sought to open the debate, with the intention that carbon should become an ‘intangible asset’. This would mean that anyone who can demonstrate ownership of the land, would own the carbon on it. In May 2013, discussions on the nature of carbon rights are still on going. In principle, it is the State that has the right to decide on the distribution of carbon rights, but the solution may be found during the implementation of REDD+ pilot projects rather than through laws that are yet to be passed. For example, in the pilot project of the Congolese Industrielle du Bois (CIB) in Pikounda North benefit sharing mechanisms need to be designed for the project to be successful.

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Forest management

According to Article 105 of Law No. 16-2000 of 20 November 2000 on the Forest Code, the State’s forest policy is developed and implemented by the Forestry and Water Administration under the authority of the Ministry of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development. The Administration is responsible for the management and conservation of forests, wildlife and water and ensuring the sustainable use of biological resources. It is responsible for inspecting and supervising the appropriate management and sustainable use of forests, wildlife and water resources, as well as assessing the activities being carried out.

However, as noted by the R-PP, the lack of capacity of the Forestry and Water Administration means that supervision of the national territory is currently inadequate (R-PP, 2011). Furthermore, national and local authorities are also incapable of adequately enforcing laws and regulations due to a lack of personnel and expertise. This has led to unsustainable and illegal logging becoming major causes of deforestation and forest degradation in the Republic of Congo.

In June 2008, the Republic of Congo began negotiations with the European Union (EU), which resulted in the signing of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) under the FLEGT process in May 2010. This agreement aims to ensure the legality of the wood exported to the EU (Information FLEGT VPA, 2010). The VPA has only recently been ratified by Congo (February 2013).

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Reference levels

According to the R-PP, the Republic of Congo’s reference level will be an adjusted historical scenario, according to the methodological guidance of the Copenhagen decision (FCCC/CP/2009/11/Add.1). The reference level will be developed in coordination with the National Centre for Statistics and Economic Studies (CNSEE) by analysing historical emissions, adapted to the context and the national system.

This reference level will be organised in two parts: a "spatial" component to estimate areas at risk of deforestation and a "quantitative" component estimating areas at risk of deforestation in the future. A capacity building plan is also anticipated and activities related to the definition of the reference level will begin once a second block of funding is received from the FCPF by the end of 2013.

The results of some projects in the Congo may also contribute to the development of a reference level for REDD+. For example, the French Global Environment Facility (FFEM) has awarded a contract to GAF-AG (a German Earth observation and geo-information group) to map forest cover through the GEOFORAFRI programme, an initiative coordinated by the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD, France), which supports forest cover mapping initiatives in the Congo Basin, in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA). GAF-AG will use the historical data necessary to map forest cover change for the whole country between 1990-2000 and the between 2000-2010. This project will allow the Congo to establish a reference level for forest cover (GAF-AG, 2013).

Other projects include one led by the National Centre for Surveys and Forest and Fauna Resources Management (CNIAF), with the support of the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) and Winrock International (WI) initiated in 2011 to monitor forest management and protected areas. The project is entitled "aerial imagery in three dimensions" (MADI). The World Resources Institute (WRI) has also set up a project called "Interactive Forestry Atlas of Congo," a forest information system managed by a team composed of representatives of the Ministry of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development (MEFDD), WRI and CNIAF organised around a GIS platform (Geographic Information System). This project began in 2003 and the third edition of the atlas was launched in December 2012.

WRI also oversees a project entitled "Quantification of carbon stocks and emissions from the forests of the Congo" in partnership with the MEFDD, the Satellite Observatory for the Forests of Central Africa (OSFAC), the University Maryland (South Dakota, USA), NASA and IMAZON. The project results are currently being drafted for publication (as of May 2013). 

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In May 2013, the Republic of Congo had no methodology or system established for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of REDD+ activities at national or sub-national levels. The R-PP provides for the creation of a national MRV team supported by an international consultant to plan and implement national MRV activities. Framed by the REDD+ National Coordination body (CN-REDD), the team will be based in the National Centre for Surveys and Forest and Fauna Resources Management (CNIAF) and will include members of the Research Centre for Geographic and Cartographic Production (CERGEC - for scientific research). The CNIAF is currently also implementing a project to develop a multi-resource forest inventory to assist in the development of an integrated land use plan. This project, which began in May 2012, will assess the available carbon stock in forests of the Republic of Congo, to establish baselines and set up an MRV system.

Other activities currently underway in the country that can contribute to the development of an MRV system include the REDDiness project, a two years project (February 2011 to February 2013) funded by the European Commission which aimed to strengthen local capacity to monitor forest degradation. In addition, the GEOFORAFRI project, implemented by the GAF-AG Group with support from the European Space Agency (ESA), will also work to include local partners in the process of mapping of the forest area and transfer skills to enable the Republic of Congo to conduct its own MRV in the long term in accordance with international guidelines.

At the regional level, the FAO has been designated by COMIFAC as the implementing agency for a project funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF), with the overall objective of supporting the development and implementation of national systems for Monitoring and Measurement, Reporting and Verification (M&MRV) in COMIFAC countries . The first phase of this project is to develop a comprehensive programme for the technical and conceptual development of 10 national financial programmes and a regional programme for the establishment of national M&MRV systems.

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Social, Environmental and governance safeguards have not yet been developed for the implementation of REDD+ in the Republic of Congo. The Consultation Framework for Organisations of the Congolese Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples on REDD+ (CACO-REDD) has established a working group on the environmental and social risks and benefits of REDD+ with the objective of developing guidelines for the implementation of environmental and social safeguards at the national level.

The current legal framework for environmental and social protection is based on Article 35 of the Constitution (Constitution of the Republic of Congo. 2002), which states the right of people to live in a healthy and sustainable environment. The Constitution is supported by Law No. 3-91 of 23 April 1991 on environmental protection, which recognises the right to compensation from the government in the case of expropriation (Article 12) and protects cultural heritage (Article 9).

The Republic of Congo intends to implement a Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) as part of its national strategy for REDD+. The head of the SESA unit within the REDD+ National Coordination body (CN-REDD) took office in June 2013.

Gender Equality

Gender equality is a principle enshrined in the Republic of Congo’s Constitution. Article 8 recognises the equality of all citizens, that women have the same rights as men, and that the law should guarantee women’s representation in all areas of politics. This provision is reinforced by Electoral Law No 5-2007. However, the National Development Plan 2012-2016 fails to mention gender equality with the exception of pledges to promote women’s health and nutrition (Section 95). Similarly, the National Forestry Action Plan and the National Environmental Action Plan do not specifically mention gender-related issues (Mouandza 2012).

Although the Republic of Congo’s R-PP includes information on measures to promote gender equality, the country’s FCPF mid-term progress report (March 2015) does not provide an update on steps taken towards their implementation. However it does add that, during consultation processes under CN-REDD, women must make up 30% of participants. Support for rural women is identified as a non-carbon benefit of REDD+. Moreover, women are identified as being part of ‘vulnerable and marginalized groups’, whose needs must be taken into account during REDD+ implementation.

The Republic of Congo’s 2014 ER-PIN states that women’s groups will be part of the National REDD+ implementation board and the Emissions Reduction Programme Management Facility (Section 7.1). Further, women’s groups will be among the main beneficiaries of monetary and non-monetary benefits (Section 15.1). Benefits will include education, health, agricultural input or training.  A survey undertaken by UN REDD+ however, shows that women only represented 20% of civil society participants in REDD+ decision-making processes in 2013 (ONU-REDD 2013, Section 3.3.6)

In the Sangha Tri-National Landscape (TNS), work is being done to align the interests of all stakeholders through participative land-use and management planning. There is a recognition of women’s central role and disproportionate impact on natural resource management, particularly regarding the bush meat trade. Therefore, actions to improve awareness of wildlife laws and sustainable management of natural resources will be targeted at women in local communities. These actions include environmental education and stakeholder consultations as part of the protection strategy tackling biodiversity threats. Most notably, the TNS Project Description details a Gender Integration Strategy aiming to assess the role of gender in the landscape, and define and prioritise actions accordingly to ensure a successful conservation strategy. The aim of the Gender Integration Strategy is to strengthen the productive roles of women and to ensure that women participate in planning, project design, decision-making, research and implementation (WCS 2013). 


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