The first meeting of the Science and Public Policy Platform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) took place on 14 December 2021 and was held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. This event, aimed at reflecting on REDD+ implementation in the DRC, took place after the COP 26 in Glasgow. At that conference, the DRC Government renewed its international commitments to help tackle deforestation and forest degradation. To that end, it signed the second Letter of Intention with the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI).
More than 20 people attended the December event. They represented the major REDD+ stakeholders in the DRC: government agencies, academia, national and international non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and donors. We were honoured that a representative from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) was among the speakers.
CIFOR Scientist Christian Amani opened the virtual workshop, reminding the audience that the event was taking place within the fourth phase (2021–2023) of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (GCS-REDD+). He noted this Project focuses on the protection of tropical forests, while enhancing the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples. Among other things, he said, its theory of change promotes sustainable development and the preservation of biological diversity. Ultimately, he said, the GCS-REDD+ project seeks to develop new narratives to help trigger transformative actions by decision makers and practitioners in favour of standing forests and forest-dependent people. To that end, decision makers and practitioners in tropical forest countries must design and implement effective, efficient and equitable policies and actions that respect forests based on knowledge and capacities co-developed through project activities.
Speaking on behalf of NORAD, Ellen Henrikke reminded the audience about the importance of preserving the Congo Basin forests. In part, preservation was to counter the negative effects of global climate change, as per the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. However, she also noted the forests provide numerous other ecosystem services. The survival of the Congo Basin forests, for example, has implications on local, regional and continental scales (regional water balance regulation, precipitation patterns over large parts of Africa, etc.). She stressed how CIFOR’s work on REDD+ contributes to building a strong research-based knowledge. NORAD welcomed the organization of the 14 December 2021 workshop and the ultimate establishment of an ad hoc consultative group. She hoped that, through this participatory approach, CIFOR would adapt its research to existing initiatives and ongoing processes in the DRC at both political and programmatic levels.
In the first presentation, Dr Pham Thu Thuy (CIFOR Senior Scientist and GCS-REDD+ Team Leader) focused on the fourth (and current) phase of the GCS-REDD+: Knowledge for action to protect tropical forests and enhancing rights. She mentioned the important scientific contributions of the GCS-REDD+ project and showed that, to be effective, the current phase was structured into four work packages: achieving transparency and accountability; tracking and assessing actions; bringing out the politics (understanding and enlarging the policy space); and linking science, policy and politics for forest-based climate actions. She explained each of these work packages of the project.
In the second presentation, Prof Faustin Boyemba Bosela — on behalf of the DRC National REDD+ Fund (FONAREDD) — focused on five main points: (1) The DRC forest sector and its dynamics; (2) REDD+ and its different phases in DRC; (3) The REDD + implementation framework in the DRC; (4) The First Letter of Intent (2016–2020) between the DRC and CAFI, and expected results; and (5) The vision for the next 10 years (in the framework of the Second DRC-CAFI Letter of Intent).
In the final presentation, Prof Blaise-Pascal Ntirumenyerwa Mihigo (Professor of Law at the University of Kinshasa and former GCS-REDD+ Country Coordinator for the DRC) focused on the challenges of the legal framework and REDD+ policies in the DRC. He gave particular attention to analysis of the two Letters of Intent between the DRC and CAFI, and the REDD+ regulations.
The three above-mentioned presentations were immediately followed by a panel discussion. Panellists discussed the fallout of COP26 and the contribution of the present CIFOR project on REDD+ implementation in the DRC. A question-and-answer period helped participants interact and bring in new insights.
In a post-event survey, 100% of respondents rated the event either as good (50%) or very good (50%) in meeting their expectations; 92% considered the event either useful (25%) or very useful (67%). On average, from the three topics/presentations and the plenary discussions, 95% of respondents stated they learned either a great deal (47%), a good deal (27%) or some (21%) from the first policy dialogue. They identified learnings such as the fallout of COP26, REDD+ implementation priorities and their legal aspects, the content of the two Letters of Intent, the REDD+ financing mechanisms and the contribution of the GCS project to REDD+ implementation.
The December 2021 discussions will serve as important building blocks for the three Science and Policy dialogues that will be organized during 2022.