Republic of Congo

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Population

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Country size

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Forest cover

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In Republic of Congo, forest covers about 65 percent of the country’s area and plays a major ecological and socio-economic role. 74% of the country’s forest area is allocated to logging concessions, which is a major driver of forest degradation. 

Agro-industrial and particularly palm oil expansion is another major threat to the Congolese rainforest, as is oil exploration and extraction. Worryingly, the government has recently announced its intention to develop oil production in forest areas including the Cuvette Centrale peatlands, an action that could ignite an irreversible carbon bomb and threaten worldwide climate efforts.  

The Congo’s forests are invaded by a variety of land concessions, which often overlap each other, particularly logging concessions, agro-industrial plantations and strictly protected areas. Communities are often displaced from their land to make way for these activities that bring them meagre tangible benefits and often violate their rights, which are not well recognised in the first place.

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As in other countries in the Congo Basin, environmental and human rights defenders (EHRDs) face increasing threats and are forced to operate in a political landscape that provides very little space for civic participation. While an innovative 'Indigenous Peoples Law' was passed in 2011, which RFUK helped to develop, very little has been done to actually enforce it, and so communities still struggle to exercise their property right over their traditional territories. 

Our Impacts

Historically, our work in the Republic of Congo has had great impact in the country. We took part in the civil society movement that led to the adoption of the Indigenous Peoples law; led one of the first community mapping exercises in the country; documented the dangers of industrial palm oil expansion and corrupt land management; and were amongst the first organisations to denounce human rights abuses by conservation agents against local communities 

Since 2019, we have been partnering with local organisation CJJ to support communities in the Republic of Congo to use ForestLink to document and denounce illegal activities in their lands, as well as demand better compensation from logging companies.  In just a few years, communities have gained a thorough understanding of their rights and environmental regulations, and CJJ has gained recognition for their innovative approach in the Independent Forest Monitoring space. The Congolese administration has also shown willingness to engage with this work and respond to communities’ alerts, marking a hopeful step towards a more rights-centred future.

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Projects and Campaigns

ForestLink

Real-time community-based monitoring is a tool that connects local people with national law enforcement in an effort to stop illegal logging and deforestation.

Mapping for Rights

Mapping For Rights is an award-winning, interactive community map project for the Congo Basin, which started in November 2011 and is ongoing.

Conservation & Human Rights

The traditional ‘fortress conservation’ approach of the west is premised on the dangerous yet persistent idea that local people need to be separated from nature to keep it “pristine” (sometimes for the benefit of foreign tourists). This does not only drive human rights violations but is also ineffective as it ignores and alienates the very people who have shaped and stewarded those landscapes for millennia.

Agribusiness

Commercial agriculture projects have been associated with forceful displacement from their ancestral lands, protracted land conflicts, loss of livelihoods with little or no compensation, disregard for their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), as well as water and soil pollution.

Latest publications

Protected Areas and Indigenous Rights: A submission to the UN Special Rapporteur

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Roads to Ruin: the emerging impacts of infrastructure development in Congo Basin forests

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Final evaluation: Embedding community Real Time Monitoring (RTM) to sustain livelihoods and forests in West and Central Africa

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Yaoundé Declaration Declaration: Statement concerning community forestry in the Congo Basin region