Strengthening civil society participation in REDD+ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Year

    July 2019 to December 2021

  • Location

    Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Partners

    Renovated Climate-REDD+ Working Group (GTCRR)

  • Budget

    EUR ∼200 000

  • Funded by

    EU REDD Facility


Civil society participation plays an essential role in good forest governance. It increases transparency and makes government officials more accountable for their decisions, thereby contributing to the consolidation of democratic processes. This in turn enhances the legitimacy of decisions and their ownership by all members of society.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a pioneer REDD+ country, having been engaged in the process since 2008. The investment phase started in 2016 with the validation of the REDD+ Investment Plan. That same year, DRC signed a letter of intent with the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) for the implementation of its REDD+ Investment Plan, which sets the programmatic framework over five years of the National REDD+ Framework Strategy validated by the Government in November 2012.

One of the pillars of the CAFI letter of intent is civil society’s engagement in the development and implementation of activities under the National REDD+ Framework Strategy and its Investment Plan. Stakeholders are groups with a voice, interest or right over the forest and who will be negatively or positively affected by REDD+ activities. These include large public agencies, formal or informal forest users, private sector entities, Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities, and civil society organisations (CSOs).

The Renovated REDD+ Climate Working Group (GTCRR) is the platform of CSOs and the mandated interlocutor of CSOs within the REDD+ process in DRC. The GTCRR is therefore a key stakeholder in the REDD+-related reform processes, able to influence policy processes and decisions depending on its capacities and leverage.

The objective

The objective of the EU REDD Facility’s activities is to strengthen DRC’s civil society’s capacity for internal consultation. The aim is to mainstream civil society’s positions and priorities in the REDD+ discourse and national dialogue on forest governance, including the forest policy reform process. In particular, the Facility’s support aims to:

  • Define and roll-out an approach allowing civil society to consult internally and reach consensus on their positions
  • Prepare a contribution note integrating CSOs’ main positions and priorities on the forest policy reform process, specifically the forest policy document and the forest code
  • Develop a guide on civil society internal consultation that is scalable and replicable to other deliberative policy processes or to similar contexts in other developing countries.

The challenges

Civil society participation in decision-making processes in DRC faces several challenges. Consultations are often initiated and led by the government at short notice. These sessions are usually only informative, as civil society is unprepared and unable to influence decisions. Even when the decision-making process is transparent and inclusive, CSOs’ positions can diverge, reflecting a lack of prior and internal consultation. Finally, CSOs lack the capacity to develop evidence-based, relevant and persuasive policy positions and contributions indisputable by government decision makers.

The GTCRR in Kinshasa, June 2023.

The approach

To address these challenges and strengthen civil society participation in REDD+, the Facility’s activities were carried out in three phases:

  • A pre-consultation phase where key GTCRR experts pre-identified the main themes, policy proposals or areas for reform
  • A main consultation, where the initial proposals or areas for reform were confirmed or adjusted based on information and evidence collected from sectoral stakeholders by CSOs at national and decentralised levels
  • A consolidation phase aimed at producing a consensual and widely agreed contribution or positioning note.

Stakeholders were consulted and analysed on the objectives, deliverables and reference documents of each phase.

During the pre-consultation phase in 2019, the GTCRR organised several expert workshops, bringing together 24 participants in total, from CSO members of the GTCRR. Participants analysed existing texts, identified key areas for reform and formulated draft proposals. In May 2020, the GTCRR held additional workshops to identify the datasets to be collected and confirm or adjust the initial policy proposals.

The data collection phase at the national and provincial levels began in August 2020. It ended with a data restitution workshop in December 2020. This workshop brought together several GTCRR members and experts, who validated or adjusted the draft reform proposals. The data collected served as a basis for GTCRR’s analysis and positioning report on the forest reform process in DRC. This report went through local consultations in the provinces of Tshopo (24 June 2021), Equator (27 July 2021) and Maniema (29 July 2021).

The entire methodology and consultation process was consolidated in a guide on civil society participation, with the aim to replicate the approach in other deliberative policy processes or in similar contexts in other developing countries.

Results and impact

  • The GTCR-R completed the final phase of its internal consultation, thereby identifying priority legal and technical issues to be included in the future forest policy and related legal framework. These priorities, together with a communication and tailored advocacy strategy targeting key players (forest administration, CAFI, AFD, the EU, etc.) to influence forest reform policy outcomes were produced and presented by the GTCRR to forest stakeholders mid-December 2021.
  • The GTCRR developed a consultation guide for the Congolese civil society to serve as a reference document on consultations in third parties-led deliberative reform processes. The consultation guide’s approach was replicated in the agricultural reform process and in the energy policy debate.
  • On 5 December 2022, the GTCRR attended the launch of the Sustainable Forest Management Programme (PGDF) and made contributions to the reform of the National Forest Advisory Board (CCNF) decree and the roadmap for the development of the forest policy.
  • The GTCRR’s forest policy contribution note was updated to align with the ongoing debate on the log ban policy in the sub-region.
  • The GTCRR held bilateral meetings with decision makers and forest policy champions within the Government, private sector, and development partners to present their forest policy positions as the Sustainable Forest Management Programme (PGDF) was officially launched.
  • Lessons learnt from the EU REDD Facility’s support to the GTCRR informed the functioning modalities and arrangements of civil society engagement and participation in the second CAFI letter of intent.