Synergy and encouraging results between the FLEGT VPA and non-mandated independent monitoring
Since it was set up, SNOIE Congo has produced eight non-mandated IM reports. Once the reports are validated by the organisation’s Technical and Ethical Committee, they are sent to the relevant ministries for follow-up by the relevant departments.
Inès MVOUKANI supported this assertion with two examples. The first concerns “non-compliance with labour legislation and hygiene measures in a forestry company in Niari. The Niari Departmental Health and Labour Directorates were contacted. The Departmental Labour Directorate confirmed the veracity of the findings highlighted in our non-mandated IM report. It then formulated a series of recommendations calling on the forestry company to honour its commitments regarding labour legislation and compliance with hygiene measures”, she said.
The second, according to Gady Inès MVOUKANI, relates to “monitoring the implementation of contractual obligations towards local communities, also in Niari. Desks that are already manufactured and available, have not been delivered to the schools identified as beneficiaries. The follow-up process is ongoing.”
These examples allowed Gady Inès MVOUKANI to highlight the synergy between the FLEGT VPA and the non-mandated IM, whose annexes provide for the implementation of the non-mandated IM by civil society. This synergy will be strengthened by the new Forestry Code, enacted in July 2020.
Challenges of non-mandated independent monitoring
SNOIE Congo faces a series of challenges, described by Inès MVOUKANI as follows: “Our biggest challenge is the sustainable funding of non-mandated independent monitors. Without financial support from the EU and other partners, it will be impossible for us to carry out our activities, go out into the field and make recommendations on forest law enforcement”.
What’s more, continues MVOUKANI, “our job is not just to point out failures to apply forestry legislation and consider the rights of local communities, but also to ensure that the recommendations made in our reports are taken on board by the relevant authorities at all levels.”
Moreover, as a representative of civil society, and over and above its key role in monitoring forestry companies, independent monitoring has great potential to contribute more broadly to forest governance. For example, it could monitor the management of taxes and local development funds, artisanal woodworking and the local market, and deforestation activities. It could also support the development and monitor the implementation of management plans for forest concessions, but also for new titles introduced by the Forestry Code, such as domestic permits or community forests, or monitor supplies to the special economic zones currently under development.
Independent monitoring, a key factor in forest governance
Non-mandated independent monitoring in the forestry sector is of the utmost importance to promoting transparency and strengthening the governance of forest resources. Similarly, by acting as guardians of transparency and legality in the forest sector, independent monitors strengthen the effectiveness and, above all, the credibility of the VPA. This synergy between independent monitoring and the FLEGT VPA demonstrates how rigorous monitoring can strengthen the sustainable management of forest resources, to the benefit of ecosystems and dependent communities.