In July and August 2012, three civil society organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - Actions pour les Droits, l'Environnement et la Vie (ADEV), the Centre d’Accompagnement des Autochtones Pygmées et Minoritaires Vulnérables (CAMV), and Cercle pour la défense de l'environnement (CEDEN) - organised a series of legal workshops in collaboration with the Forest Peoples Programme and with financial assistance from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). The workshops sought to reinforce the legal capacity of these organisations and to promote a better understanding of indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights to land and natural resources and of the mechanisms to advocate for and defend the rights of communities in the REDD+ process in the DRC.
Free, prior and informed consent
“I now understand what free, prior and inform consent means. This right entails more than consulting communities; promoters have the obligation to obtain the consent of communities before going ahead with their projects”.
- Jean-Claude Ikangamino, CAMV.
During the workshops, participants addressed the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), protected under international and regional law, and according to which indigenous peoples have the right to give or refuse their consent to any project which will likely impact their rights to land and natural resources. It was explained that this right has evolved in international law and is now increasingly recognised to extend beyond indigenous peoples to include local communities as well.
Discussions also focused on how the right to FPIC is not protected under national Congolese law, despite the fact that the government is party to several international conventions protecting this right. The Arrêté Ministériel fixant la procédure d’homologation des projets REDD+ (Ministerial Order on the homologation procedure for REDD+ projects) provides that upon signature of a partnership contract to value environmental services associated with REDD+ projects, project promoters have four years to obtain external validation of their projects. Validation is notably subjected to the consultation of relevant stakeholders, in accordance with the Procédure d’enquête publique préalable à l’octroi d’une concession forestière (Procedure of public enquiry prior to granting forest concessions). This procedure does not respect the international obligations of the DRC: it aims to inform and consult local communities and indigenous peoples regarding projects that may impact their land and resources, but it does not allow them to oppose the implementation of projects if they believe that they will have negative impacts on their land, resources, or livelihoods. This violates their right to free, prior and informed consent.
Gender and the REDD+ process
“For the first time, I understood that gender also concerns us men. In our country, men are rarely associated with gender activities. In the context of REDD+ projects, we must all be involved and ensure that women can benefit from REDD+.”
- Ronsard Boika, Environmental Education Officer, CEDEN
The importance of gender in the REDD+ process was another theme covered during the workshops. Participants noted that despite the strong interactions of women with their environment and their reliance on natural resources, women do not control their land or natural resources and are often subjected to discrimination in their access to both. Many expressed concerns that REDD+ could have negative consequences for women by further limiting their access to forest resources and thus exacerbating gender inequalities and poverty amongst women. It is therefore crucial to ensure the full and effective participation of women in the REDD+ process. As highlighted by Patricia Mayolongo, lawyer at ADEV, “this participation must be substantive and effective; it must do far more than merely count the number of women in attendance”.
Participants from ADEV, CAMV, and CEDEN insisted on the importance of sharing their newly acquired knowledge with communities and to support them to advocate for their rights. CAMV Executive Director, Pacifique Mukumba, affirmed that “after this theoretical phase, we must put into practice the new concepts we learned. We intend to use the different regional and international avenues to protect and advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples.”
 Arrêté Ministériel No 004/CAB/MIN/ECN-T/012 of 15 February 2012, fixant la procédure d’homologation des projets REDD+.
 Arrêté Ministériel No 24/CAB/MIN/ECN-T/15/JEB/08 of 7 August 2008, fixant la procédure d’enquête publique préalable à l’octroi d’une concession forestière.