Saturday, June 27, 2015

CSOs Push for Integration of Forest People’s Rights into National Laws

Yaounde, Cameroon—According to the World Bank, Billions of Dollars are lost annually due to corruption resulting from the failure to collect taxes and royalties on legally sanctioned timber harvests. The financial institution holds that such loses of state revenue prevent the timber-rich Congo Basin governments from realizing development objectives.
Poor and disadvantaged indigenous communities experts say suffer the most from poor governance of the forest sector as they are denied active participation in decision-making-processes concerning their land and resources.
Indigenous forest people do not take part in decisions concerning their forest
The Congo Basin VPA Implementation-Championing Forest People’s Rights and Participation Project was thus initiated to ensure that the rights of the rights of the about 70 million people who depend on the Congo Basin forest for livelihood are recognized and protected.
The project manager, Dr Aurelian Mbzibain explained that it seeks to contribute to strong inclusive Voluntary Partnership Accord, VPA process that guide and frame effective implementation of Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) in countries of the Congo Basin.
As part of the project implementation process, some members of parliament, the civil society organizations, international experts and representatives of indigenous people from member countries of the Congo Basin and the Ivory Coast met in a sub regional workshop from June 22-23 to seek ways of influencing national legislations that take into account the rights and concerns of indigenous forest people.
The workshop was jointly organised by the Centre for International Development and Training, CIDT, based in the University of Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom, the Forest Peoples’ Programme, FFP, and the Community and Forest Platform (CFP) Cameroon.
The British High Commissioner to Cameroon, Brian Oulley urged the participants not to limit themselves to theory but come up with concrete proposals that will help both parties.
Launched in March 2014, the Congo Basin VPA Implementation-Championing Forest people’s rights and Participation Project will span thirty (30) months with funding from the European Union and the UK Department for International Development.

CSOs-Parliament collaboration

At the end of the workshop, representatives from Cameroon, Gabon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Ivory Coast briefed the press on the collaboration that exists between civil society organizations and parliamentarians regarding the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous forest communities.
The revelation by Hon Raymond Adouma, member of parliament of the national assembly of the Central African Republic that the country is on course to integrate the concerns of the indigenous forest communities into the new country constitution was described as a model that should be emulated. This will be done thanks to the collaboration between civil society organizations and lawmakers of the war torn country, the MP said.
The Ivory Coast, according to Hon Sangare Yacomba, is currently working with civil society organizations in its negotiations with the European Union towards signing the VPA/FLEGT.
“This move will help preserve and sustainably manage the remaining forest. Most of the forest in the Ivory Coast was cut down during the militaro-political crisis of 2002 and the post electoral violence of 2010”, the MP revealed.

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