Securing Forest Peoples’ Rights and Tackling Deforestation in the DR Congo

This report by ILC member Forest People Programme draws on existing literature on deforestation and forest degradation, and on discussions with forest peoples’ organisations and with other stakeholders, including field consultations in three of the DRC’s most densely forested provinces. The report highlights the many socio-environmental impacts and human rights violations that communities experience in association with forest loss.

Deforestation and forest degradation have increased in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), despite the government’s commitment to safeguard its forests.

Illegal logging, unsustainable mining, commercial agriculture, and urban demand for fuelwood represent only some of the major long-term threats to the forests. By contrast, the traditional livelihood strategies of indigenous and local communities show a capacity to coexist with forests sustainably.

With appropriate forest tenure reforms and effective rights protections, the European Union’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan and the United Nations/World Bank REDD+ initiatives could offer potentially important mechanisms to tackle forest destruction and the abuse of rights.

At present, however, these initiatives lack effective safeguards and compliance mechanisms to protect community rights. At the same time, the overall national framework for land allocation and forest concession zoning in the DRC is still driving deforestation and failing to protect customary land and livelihood rights. Agro-industrial concessions and mining developments continue to be imposed on forest communities without their knowledge or consent.

This report by ILC member Forests People Programme draws on existing literature on deforestation and forest degradation, and on discussions with forest peoples’ organisations and with other stakeholders, including field consultations in three of the DRC’s most densely forested provinces. The report highlights the many socio-environmental impacts and human rights violations that communities experience in association with forest loss.

It also suggests that, in order to solve forest-related challenges, the DRC requires full legal recognition of the customary rights of forest peoples and the inclusion of such communities as equal partners in efforts to stem this destructive tide.