The Forests of the Congo Basin: State of the Forest 2008 launched at the U.S. Capital

 

The International Conservation Caucus Foundation and U.S. partners in the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) organized a launch event for the English version of the CBFP "Forests of the Congo Basin: State of the Forest" report on Thursday, January 14 in the U.S. Capitol Building. DRC Ambassador Faida M. Mitifu, World Resources Institute president Jonathan Lash, and USAID Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) director John Flynn spoke at the event and introduce the report.  The event was attended by Congressional staff, U.S. Government officials, African government representatives and the leadership of the conservation non-governemntal organizations active in CBFP/CARPE implementation. Master of Ceremonies for the event was Dr. James Deutsch Executive Director, Africa Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

 

The "State of the Forest" reports on progress by the communities and governments of Central Africa assisted by the United States and other CBFP partners, towards conserving the world's second largest and most intact tropical rainforest. The Congo Basin is home to gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, forest elephants, and over 70 million people who depend on the forest for their livelihoods. The United States has invested more than $100 million through the Central African Regional Program for the Environment, and the "State of the Forest" documents how this program and other investments are slowing the rate of deforestation and the loss of biodiversity, promoting sustainable development, and stemming greenhouse gas emissions across the Congo Basin and in twelve conservation landscapes.

 

Presenting an evaluation of the success and achievement of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, John Flynn, Director for the USAID Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) noted that this report represents a significant accomplishment for the CBFP, which now includes more than 50 government and non-government partners, and to which the United States has invested more than $120 million since 2002.  As a next step, USAID and the State Department will review our CBFP programs in 2010, in preparation for the USAID/CARPE office's "phase III" work plan. This review will also help to guide U.S. engagement in the region with Canada, which pledged in November 2009 to assume leadership of the CBFP after Germany's term as "facilitator" ends this year.

 

The International Conservation Caucus Foundation and the members of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation Advisory Council are proud to host the launch of the English version of the Forests of the Congo Basin: "State of the Forest" the latest and deeply substantive Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) publication resulting from the collaborative effort of over 100 individuals representing a diversity of institutions and the forest administrations of Central African countries.

 

Jonathan Lash, President of the World Resources Institute, a CARPE implementing partner, observed that any conversation about ecosystems, climate, and human well-being involves the great forest basins of the world and, therefore, that the sustainable management of the Congo Basin forest is vital at local, national, regional and global scales. He posited that maintaining the ability of these and other forests to provide people with the ecosystem services they need for healthy, secure, and fulfilling livelihoods rested on three pillars: First is good management. Management practices and institutions need to be able to operate at multiple scales:  local, national, and international and across long time horizons. Second is a good incentive. Economic and regulatory incentives need to align with forest stewardship. These incentives should support good management. Third is good information. Data about the state of forests and how they are being managed needs to be available, accurate, and easily utilized. In fact, information underpins the other two pillars. Without good information, it is difficult to set the right incentives and implement good forest management.

 

The State of the Forests in Central Africa makes an important contribution to these pillars: (1) at the most fundamental level, it provides information about the condition, trends, and threats to Congo Basin forests in a manner that is publicly accessible, user-friendly, and up-to-date. It serves as a platform for standardizing measurement, monitoring, and data collection, thereby facilitating comparisons across landscapes and countries, as well as tracking progress over time; (2) it provides insights on incentives for sustainable forest management. I am pleased that this year's report covers emerging incentives such as payments for ecosystem services and REDD; (3) it addresses the need to coordinate management of Central African forests across countries, highlighting the important role of COMIFAC the need for a basin-wide approach to sustainably managing this natural asset rather than just a country-by-country approach.

 

Paya de Marcken of the World Wildlife Fund and one of the more than 100 scientists, policy and technical experts in Central Africa who contributed to the report introduced the report and described how the report is divided into three major parts: (1) the national and regional synthesis documenting the overall condition of Central Africa's forest ecosystems and the key challenges and progress toward slowing the rate of deforestation and loss of biodiversity across the Congo Basin; (2) thematic chapters dealing with environmental services offered by the forests with a special focus on carbon stocks, water resources, and wood energy; (3) chapters with detailed information on the 12 CBFP landscapes.

 

Her Excellency, Dr. Faida Mitifu, Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the U.S. speaking as a representative of the DRC government, and by extension for this occasion, the governments of the other Congo Basin states, who are the driving force for forest conservation and development in the region, and ultimately responsible for the achievements documented in the State of the Forest Report.  She showed the importance of forest conservation for the DRC, how partnerships with entities such as the US government, CBFP and USAID's CARPE program are supporting the DRC in achieving biodiversity conservation goals and improving the lives of DRC's citizens, and how the State of the Forest report is one of the tools which help to demonstrate this contribution to the region.

 

The Forests of the Congo Basin: State of the Forest 2008 Chapters available for download via the OFAC website, are linked from http://www.cbfp.org/Stateoftheforest.html and http://carpe.umd.edu/resources/sof. These pages also include access to the earlier 2006 Forests of the Congo Basin: State of the Forest 2006 and the Forests of the Congo Basin: A Preliminary Assessment (2005).

 

If you need additional information, please contact: M. Tim, Resch (Bureau Environmental Advisor, USAID Bureau for Africa, Office of Sustainable Development/EGEA): tresch@usaid.gov

 

 

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