The government of Norway is today accused by RFUK of encouraging impunity for serious wrong-doing, by failing to insist that illegal logging concessions in the Democratic Republic of Congo are immediately terminated. Responding to recent requests from Rainforest Foundation UK that it should refuse funding to a huge expansion of logging in the DRC, and should instead help Congo to shut down illegal logging concessions, the Government of Norway this week instead indicated that it is content for at least five million hectares of illegal concessions to remain in existence until the end of 2018.
Last week, RFUK wrote to the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, asking her urgently to intervene to stop her government from funding a project through Norway’s ‘Central Africa Forest Initiative’ (CAFI), which could increase by 20 million hectares the area of Congo’s rainforest handed out to timber companies. In a special briefing, RFUK informed the Norwegian government that half of Congo’s logging concessions are already illegal, and should be shut down.
Congo’s forestry laws require that logging concessions should have a forest management within five years of being issued, or they must be cancelled immediately and returned to the state. According to RFUK’s investigations, published in the new briefing, 29 of Congo’s 57 known logging concessions – covering at least five million hectares – currently fail this requirement, yet have not been cancelled by the Congolese authorities.
In the last year, the Congolese government has also issued at least five and possibly ten new illegal logging concessions, five of which were cancelled by the Congolese authorities this week, but the rest of which remain in place.
In a response to a journalist seen by RFUK, the Head of Norway’s International Climate and Forests Initiative (NICFI), Per Frederick Pharo, notes that “several existing logging concessions will be cancelled if they do not have validated management plan by the end of 2018 (a condition laid down in the [agreement] between CAFI and DRC)” . International NGOs including RFUK warned the Norwegian government in June 2016 that its agreement with Congo needed to be consistent with Congolese law and that it should require the immediate cancellation of non-compliant concessions, rather than allowing them to remain in existence until the end of 2018.
Ironically, also last week, Norway’s Minister for Climate and the Environment, Vidar Helgesen, in a letter to the Brazilian President, Michel Temer, threatened to cut Norwegian funding due to his country’s weakening of forest protection laws and worsening deforestation, noting that “Law enforcement has been – and remains – the cornerstone of the battle against deforestation.”
Simon Counsell, Executive Director of the Rainforest Foundation UK said; “Norway is guilty of stunning inconsistency in its approach to saving the world’s tropical forests, making the appearance of leaning hard on Brazil, whilst simultaneously encouraging impunity for serious breaches of the forestry laws in the Congo, even whilst it is lining up tens of millions of dollars in new ‘forest aid’. By refusing to insist that Congo’s illegal concessions are shut down, it is encouraging impunity for law-breaking and bad forest governance. Norway should now state that its funding for DRC’s forestry projects will be halted until all illegal logging concessions have been cancelled.”
A petition opposing Norway's funding of logging in Congo's rainforests has so far gained over 100,000 signatures.
Download the full press release here.