“How can community control over woodlands be obtained and maintained?” This was the question the African Network on Community Rights met in Douala (Cameroon) to answer"

 

Copies of the “Declaration of the African Network on Community Rights to Communities and Civil Society NGO’s” and “Recommendations for Governments to Create Favourable Conditions" are now available for download.


 

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A conference was held in Douala (Cameroon), from 13 – 16 September 2011 on the theme “How can Community Control over Woodlands be Obtained and Maintained?” ». Participating in the Douala workshop, which was organized by the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) with the technical and financial support of ACRN, FERN, FPP, and ClientEarth, were at least two representatives each from the civil society and/or forest communities of Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon.

 

Representatives of the international support organisations, namely: FERN, FPP, ClientEarth, RRI and the land law expert, Liz Alden Wily also took part in the conference. Alden Wily also took part in the conference. Finally, representatives of the Cameroon Government, COMIFAC and the World Bank, participated as well, though only during the 4th day.

 

The main objectives of the conference were as follows:


♦ To better understand the reality with regards to sustainable community management of woodlands, including the environmental and developmental advantages likely to result from the recognition of customary land tenure systems in state law and institutional practices.

♦ To better understand national legal and institutional obstacles to community control over woodlands as well as possibilities for legal reform

♦ To clarify the concept of customary land tenure systems and legislative law and demonstrate how these two legal regimes can complement each other in fostering the recognition of tenure rights

♦ To clarify the concept of procedural law (right to justice, right to information, right to consultation, etc.) as understood within the framework of the application of rights, including tenure rights

♦ To examine the FLEGT and REDD processes at national level and identify where and how they provide opportunities and/or are threats to the acquisition and defence of community control of woodlands, especially through the case study of best practices

♦ To draw up a common document/declaration that can later be used by civil society groups within the framework of their own advocacy missions, for example, by presenting it to local governments and/or through other relevant national and regional platforms It was also intended that this declaration be presented to representatives of the Cameroon Government, COMIFAC and the World Bank during a meeting on 16 September, 2011.

 

After the opening ceremony followed by the adoption of an agenda for the conference, participants proceeded to a plenary session in which they listened to several presentations. Issues requiring in-depth reflection were analysed in workgroups. Among the presentations made were:

 

(1) "Presentation of the Context” by Liz Alden Wily. She talked on the situation of customary/indigenous rights on woodlands in Africa and their implications/threats. This presentation was followed by a question and answer session.

(2) “Property Ownership and Communal Use of Land Resources, Opportunities and Threats”,

(3) “Challenges to Community Acquisition and Maintenance of Ownership Rights on their Lands”,

(4) “Presentation of the FLEGT Process”,

(5) “Presentation of the REDD Process”,

(6) “Lessons from the FLEGT and REDD Processes”, (7) Group Session: Identify what tools are required at the national and community level to reinforce community control over forests.

 

After four days of hard and productive work, the participants drew up:the Declaration of the African Network on Community Rights to Communities and NGO’s of the Civil Society and a series of strong recommendations to governments in view of creating favourable conditions were made to, among other things:


(1) ensure that customary land ownership rights are recognised as part of the right to property by state law,

(2) ensure the legal recognition of community governance and support for transparent, democratic and inclusive governance,

(3) ensure that legal reform takes place on the basis of public participation, especially the participation of indigenous peoples,

(4) ensure that the procedures and processes by which laws are applied be put in place within reasonable deadlines.

For further information, please download:

♦ Final Agenda of the Douala Conference

♦ Briefing Note

 

Declaration of the African Network on Community Rights to Communities and Civil Society NGO’s on the event of the Douala Conference on the Rights of Communities; Cameroon, 13 - 23 September 2011

 

Recommendations to the Government, Declaration of the Douala Conference on the Rights of Communities, The African Network on the Rights of Communities, Cameroon, 13-16 September, 2011

♦ (Available only in English): Address to the African Community Rights Network conference on community rights, by Silas Siakor: Final day meeting of civil society and communities from the Congo basin, Ghana and Liberia, and Cameroon government representatives, 16 September 2011

Photograph: A Cultural presentation by indigenous people @FIPACII

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