Extraordinary session of COMIFAC Council of Ministers to launch fresh take-off
Download the final communiqué of the session extraordinaire du Conseil des Ministres de la COMIFAC de Brazzaville - 18 juillet 2014
On July 18, 2014, the city of Brazzaville hosted the extraordinary session of the Council of Ministers of Environment and Forestry of COMIFAC countries.
The meeting which was made possible thanks to financial support from the World Bank/GEF through the MSP project, drew representatives of COMIFAC governments including: Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Chad. Also in attendance were representatives of sub-regional institutions and initiatives as well as international organizations including: ECCAS, COMIFAC, OIZ, PACEBCo, the REDD + and MRV regional projects, PPECF and the TRIDOM Project.
The extraordinary session was preceded by a technical expert meeting, whose opening session was chaired by the Chief of Staff of the Minister of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development, Mr. Michel ELENGA. Speaking on the occasion, he noted the slow pace of resource mobilization on the part of the international community and called for the establishment of innovative and sustainable financing mechanisms similar to the Costa Rican model. He also urged the sub-region’s countries to engage effectively in the preparation of the United Nations’ post-2015 development agenda, to ensure that forests feature high on the agenda, in consideration of their crucial role at the economic, social and environmental levels.
There were two highlights to the extraordinary session. The first was largely ceremonial and featured a string of speeches and the second was the session behind closed doors, during which the Ministers discussed pressing matters namely: (1) validation of the Accounting and Financial Audit Report for the 2013 financial year, (2) validation of the report on the study of components of restructuring strategies for COMIFAC’s financing system (3) progress of preparations to hold the third Summit of Heads of State, considering the request made by the Equatorial Guinean authorities to host the third summit, (4) Implementation status of sub-regional programmes and projects in the forestry and environmental sector under COMIFAC coordination, (5)
- report on technical and financial cooperation of the Federal Republic of Germany, (6)
Project coordination and monitoring by COMIFAC, (7)
- harmonizing sub-regional positions during meetings of the International Tropical Timber Council and other international conferences (UNFCCC, UNFF,...); (8)
the Panafrican Forest Certification System, (9)
- revamping the African Organization for Wildlife Conservation (OCFSA), (10)
construction of COMIFAC headquarters building, (11)
- climate change, (12)
and claims for payment of pension of former COMIFAC employees.
Following fruitful discussions on the points (above), the in camera proceedings came up with findings, recommendations, and resolutions designed to impart fresh impetus to COMIFAC namely:
♦ The Ministers approve the financial audit and accounting report and the internal audit report for the financial year 2013; validate the revised Convergence Plan and the chain of outcomes and corresponding indicators to be submitted for adoption by the Heads of State and Government of the COMIFAC member countries, at their Third Summit, thank all the technical partners and financiers who supported the revision of the Convergence Plan and call on the international community to support its implementation.
♦ The Ministers note the findings of the study on the components of restructuring strategies for COMIFAC’s financing system, urge member countries with arrears to pay their dues in keeping with Article 20 of the Treaty, following a timetable to be agreed upon with the COMIFAC Executive Secretariat ; commend the countries that are in good standing with their contributions: Cameroon, Congo and Equatorial Guinea, adopt the principle of increasing the annual contributions to cover COMIFAC’s overhead costs at the very least; appeal to the member States to make voluntary contributions; call on the countries to launch COMIFAC’s independent financing mechanism adopted by the Ministers in 2007 (see KANE study); endorse the principle of establishing a multi donor fund and instruct the COMIFAC Executive Secretariat to conduct a study to that effect; recommend that the issue of sustainable funding of COMIFAC be referred to the next Summit of Heads of State.
♦ Regarding progress in the organization of the third Summit of Heads of State, in consideration of the Equatorial Guinean authorities’ expressed wish to host the third summit, the Ministers mandated the incumbent Chairman of COMIFAC to conduct a high-level mission to Equatorial Guinea by October 2014, to take a message from the Head of State of the Republic of Chad to his counterpart in Equatorial Guinea.
♦ The Ministers note the implementation status of sub-regional programmes and projects coordinated by COMIFAC and initiatives under development including the proposed South-South cooperation in forest monitoring funded by Brazil, ABS projects funded by GEF and the German cooperation, the proposed mechanisms for sustainable financing of protected areas in five Congo Basin countries funded by GEF, thank the partners for their multifaceted support to sub-regional initiatives in the Forestry and Environmental sector, support the ongoing implementation of Phase 2 of the TRIDOM Project through the GEF start funds in Cameroon, Congo and Gabon, considering the project’s substantial achievements on the one hand, and the regional MRV project on the other hand.
♦ The Ministers acknowledge the report of technical and financial cooperation with the Federal Republic of Germany, and have therefore mandated the incumbent Chairman of COMIFAC to officially conduct a mission to the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany to negotiate a more detailed framework for technical and financial cooperation between the RFA and COMIFAC for all matters concerning the Forestry and Environmental sector in Central Africa
♦ Regarding coordination and monitoring of projects by COMIFAC, the Ministers instructed the COMIFAC Executive Secretariat to refrain in the future from signing project financing agreements with partners where such projects do not make provision for management and coordination charges.
♦ On the matter of harmonizing sub-regional positions ahead of meetings of the International Tropical Timber Council and other international conferences (UNFCCC, UNFF, ...), the Ministers mandate the COMIFAC Executive Secretariat to facilitate consultations between the countries in order to harmonize views and build common positions on important issues before any international negotiation and direct the COMIFAC Chairman to apply to the ITTO Executive Director for COMIFAC to be granted observer status within ITTO bodies.
♦ The Ministers note progress achieved in reviving the PAFC, endorsed by PEFC, based on the ATO-ITTO PCIs, namely in Gabon, Cameroon and Congo; commend Gabon for efforts made towards revitalization of the ATO and encourage them to pursue these efforts until the end of the process; urge member countries to promote national forest certification systems, within the framework of the PAFC, involving all stakeholders (Government, CSOs, private sector) and instruct the COMIFAC Executive Secretariat to foster the establishment of a subregional PAFC coordination office in collaboration with the ITTA with engagement of civil society organizations.
♦ Concerning the revitalization of the African Organization Wildlife Conservation (OCFSA), the Ministers note progress made and encourage Cameroon to speed up the holding of the Conference of Ministers of the aforementioned organization.
♦ Regarding the construction of the building that will house the COMIFAC headquarters, the Ministers laud the Cameroon government for measures taken to provide the Institution with a head office and encouraged it to continue its efforts until construction work is completed.
♦ On climate change, the Ministers further welcomed the Warsaw Framework which will serve as an international mechanism for REDD+; express their support for the implementation of the International REDD+ Committee in charge of coordinating support for REDD+ implementation; urge research institutions in the sub-region to support and assist the COMIFAC Climate Working Group in formulating technical bids; and call on technical and financial partners to support negotiators from COMIFAC member countries in strengthening the sub-region’s position on non-carbon benefits and a non-market based approach to REDD+ and call on the countries of the sub-region to designate their national entities or Focal Points for the Green Climate Fund to fast track accession to the fund.
♦ In other business and closing statements, the Ministers decided that the 8th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers would be held in Bujumbura, Burundi in November 2014. At the close of its deliberations, the Council of Ministers thanked the brotherly people of the Republic of Congo, the President and Government for the warm welcome they had received.
For more information on the conduct of the extraordinary session, access the final communiqué on the meeting: Please download the final communiqué of the session extraordinaire du Conseil des Ministres de la COMIFAC de Brazzaville - 18 juillet 2014
Images credits: COMIFAC - Du haut au Bas - (1) Photo de famille Participants à la session extraordinaire du Conseil des Ministres de la COMIFAC (2) Photo de famille session des experts