Leading scientists back Congolese civil society call to increase forest community land rights to combat climate change

Septiembre 29, 2022

Ahead of crucial upcoming climate talks in Egypt this November, a gathering of international scientists has backed a Congolese civil society call to scale up recognition of indigenous peoples and other local communities’ rights as a key strategy in the fight against climate change.

This month, RFUK’s community forest partners joined leading scientists from around the world in Yangambi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the first in a series of ‘pre-COP’ meetings taking place in the country in advance of ‘COP27’. Thanks to their efforts, the final declaration concluded that:

“In terms of forests and biodiversity, [we, scientists from 26 countries, declare] the need to […] mobilize sustainable financing to guarantee […] the securing of the land and forest rights of Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples [and] the equitable sharing of benefits and the integration of local community forest concessions into the overall land-use planning process.”

With the political segment of the pre-COP talks due to be held in Kinshasa from October 3-5, this gives further weight to calls to accelerate direct support to frontline defenders following a USD1.7 billion commitment made by institutional and private donors at COP26 last year in Glasgow.

In DRC, community forestry provides an unprecedented opportunity ​​to achieve this objective. The government has included it as a key pillar of its revised Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Climate Accord. However, while there are already more than 180 community forests covering over tres millones de hectáreas established in the country, this represents only a fraction of the total land under customary claims.

Blaise Mudodosi, Coordinator of the NGO APEM, said

Our participation in the Pre-Cop 27 scientific conference in Yangambi served as a reminder that taking into account the rights and knowledge of local communities and indigenous peoples in the management of forest resources is a prerequisite for any solution for the climate and biodiversity. We were able to get the recommendations made by community forestry stakeholders to be integrated into the final declaration of the conference. It is now up to national and international political authorities to ensure that they are promoted and applied.”

Recent moves by the Congolese government to auction off 30 oil and gas blocks and to lift the longstanding national logging moratorium pose a significant threat to scaling up recognition of forest communities’ land rights as well as its image as a ‘solutions country’ to the climate crisis.

At the global level, it is estimated that Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant Peoples, and local communities directly manage over 50 percent of the world’s land (including much of the remaining forestland and biodiversity hotspots) yet only hold rights to 10 percent of it. Ensuring that funding gets to where it is needed will be crucial to closing this gap.

To find out more about how the Rainforest Foundations UK, US and Norway are working to address this, see our recently launched briefing, Realising the Pledge.



The “Forests for the Future Activity" is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). It is implemented by RFUK and its partners, namely CAGDFT, APEM, GASHE, GeoFirst Development, PREPPYG and RCREF. The contents of this article are the responsibility of RFUK and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

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