Safeguarding People and Forests in the Congo Basin

Sprawling over 1.45 million square kilometres – an area larger than Peru – wooded areas cover more than half of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s land surface. Around 60 per cent of the total forest area of the Congo Basin lies within this country’s borders.



Aerial View of the Congo River north of Mbandaka – Equateur Province, DRC Over half of Africa’s surface waters flow through the DR Congo. Copyright: UNEP.

Home to more than 24 million people worldwide and rich in biodiversity, forests are a major carbon sink and are vital for the provision of ecosystem services like food and energy. Sadly, these ecosystems are being destroyed an degraded at an alarming pace, causing nearly 20 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions – more than the entire global transport sector and second only after the energy sector.

Constraining the impacts of climate change within limits that society can cope with is impossible without reducing emissions from the forest sector, in addition to other mitigation actions. To respond to this challenge, the UN Environment Programme, in partnership with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), has created the UN-REDD Programme.

The core of UNEP’s REDD+ activities within UN-REDD are to help countries to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in order to generate funds that could be used by communities to improve sustainable management of forests, strengthen the role of conservation, shift the forest sector to alternative development pathways, and support biological diversity and livelihoods.

In May, countries will meet in Nairobi for UNEA 2 – the world’s de facto “Parliament for the Environment” – to discuss the integration of protecting the health of ecosystems and climate action. Finding ways to ensure a sustainable use of our forests and to prevent further deforestation will be key to keeping the global temperature rise to well below 2°C – a key goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UNEP, in partnership with Réseau Ressources Naturelles (RRN), launched a project to develop preliminary social and environmental standards for REDD+ activities with a rigorous and participatory methodology.

A core group of 10 practitioners set up a collaborative process that developed a first set of standards based on expertise from, among others, the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Alliance, and research on indicators and data needs at the local level. The standards were also tested within the REDD+ pilot projects.

Through the project, more than 300 people, including farmers, fishers, hunters, healers, traditional leaders, small-scale entrepreneurs and private sector employees have learnt what is at stake in formulating and implementing REDD+ safeguards.

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