In partnership with IUCN, CDI completed action research in DRC to initiate a joint learning process aimed at improving forest governance and effective accountability mechanisms, resulting in the formulation of specific recommendations to enhance accountability.
Improving forest governance
Designed to support and complement international initiatives to improve forest governance, the IUCN project ‘Strengthening Voices for Better Choices’ (SVBC) has created multi-stakeholder platforms at local, territorial and provincial levels to help improve forest governance arrangements in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), Wageningen UR joined forces with IUCN to analyse forest governance arrangements in DRC. This case study resulted in a publication: ‘Multi-stakeholder design of forest governance and accountability arrangements in Equator province, DRC .
Joint learning process
The objective of this action-learning/research study was to initiate a joint learning process aimed at improving forest governance and effective accountability mechanisms in Equator province.
The study aimed to answer four questions:
- What is good forest governance according to the different stakeholders?
- What type of accountability arrangements are needed for improved forest governance?
- What potential do the structures established by SVBC have to improve forest governance and, in particular, accountability?
- What are the implications for analysing forest governance and accountability in other contexts, including interventions and the action research needed to strengthen them?
Action research methods and “Most Significant Change” and “Appreciative Inquiry” were used based on SVBC’s bottom-up approach to addressing forest governance. During the two-week research period one-day workshops were held with the platforms operating at the community level, territorial level and the provincial platform to define good forest governance in the given context and to identify strategies to improve forest governance, including accountability arrangements. Interviews were held with resource people representing different stakeholder groups.
Study identified weaknesses and entry points for further work
At the end of the two weeks the stakeholders had drawn up a list of the important issues in good forest governance. This brought to light the issues that the platforms created with IUCN’s support cannot address:
- the gaps in the regulatory framework
- the exclusion of health and education agencies from the social contract between timber companies and local populations
- the energy crisis in the capital
- a failing justice sector which is weakening respect for human rights
The study also revealed that public sector and civil society performance in forest governance is weak, enabling timber companies, charcoal producers and artisanal loggers to exploit resources unchecked.
Three entry points were identified for creating the necessary accountability arrangements:
- supporting community-level committees in denouncing harmful and illegal forest exploitation practices, as well as asking public authorities to become more answerable to these complaints
- increasing transparency in forest tax collection and expenditure by the public sector
- strengthening monitoring of the social contract and the implementation of concession management plans by timber companies
Strategies for promoting improved forest governance
The study concludes with recommendations for IUCN: strategic design, promoting improved forest governance and social accountability relations. It also outlines the implications for intervention strategies and future action research for CDI.