For example, the commission that awards forest concessions permitting the harvest or management of resources from a forest area includes an independent civil society observer. For Deguene, ‘it is the presence of civil society that gives the credibility and transparency of the commission’s work.’
This kind of increased transparency and structures for Government accountability have not been limited to the forest sector. Deguene explains that ‘the VPA has contributed to the duty of accountability, not only in the context of forest management, but also in other key areas of the country’s economy, commodities, agriculture and mines.’ For example, a member of civil society sits on the national committee of the country’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. And in the ongoing revival of the palm oil sector, civil society independent observation missions are being planned.
The fact that civil society was consulted during the development of the Republic’s constitution – the supreme law of the State – shows that it has earned ‘a place and respect,’ notes Guy Julien Ndakouzou, Assistant Coordinator of the Centre for Environmental Information and Sustainable Development (CIEDD).
The constitution provides for the establishment of an Authority on good governance, responsible for reviewing all State contracts related to natural resources, including diamonds and timber. This Authority – proposed by civil society – makes these contracts public and subject to increased public scrutiny. Also further to the requests of civil society, the constitution’s preamble takes into account the rights of indigenous peoples. ‘Thanks to the VPA, civil society has become a key interlocutor of the administration,’ says Ndakouzou.
In the Central African Republic, there is now ‘an open and enlightened partnership between public authorities and civil society by the implementation of an independent mandated observation led jointly by civil society and administrative organisations,’ says Norma Yengbo Guitinzia, Gender Focal Point at CIEDD.