Democratic Republic of Congo
Facts about Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) is a low-income country with around 80 million inhabitants. It is the second largest country in Africa and is equivalent in size to two-thirds of Western Europe.
The country has abundant natural resources and extensive areas that are potentially suitable for agriculture as well as significant deposits of oil, diamonds, copper, cobalt and coltan. In 2017, the world’s largest peatland area was found in DR Congo and the Republic of the Congo.
The country is fraught with political instability, weak governance and corruption. The infrastructure is poor and the supply of energy is very limited.
The Congo Basin – importance of preservation
The Congo Basin covers an area of 3.31 million square kilometres, and is home to 120 million people. Over 60 per cent of the rainforest lies in DR Congo. The rainforest also covers areas of Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic and the Republic of the Congo. In addition, Angola has a large area of tropical forest (0.5 million square kilometres).
Indigenous peoples in the Congo Basin are a particularly vulnerable group who are also dependent on the forest for survival. The indigenous groups are highly marginalised and lack fundamental rights.
The area contributes to the stabilisation of the world’s climate: total carbon stored in the forests in the region is estimated at approximately 145 billion tonnes of CO2 above ground. In addition, there are large quantities of carbon below ground.
Cutting-edge research has revealed the world’s largest continuous peatland area, totalling 145,000 square kilometres in the border area between DR Congo and the Republic of the Congo. This constitutes 30 per cent of all tropical peatland, and stores carbon equivalent to roughly 110 billion tonnes of CO2.
Recent research also indicates that the Congo Basin contributes to the regional pattern of precipitation in Africa.
More than 8000 plant species are believed to exist in the Congo Basin. Altogether 80 per cent of them are not found anywhere else.
Moreover, over 1200 species of birds and 400 species of mammals, a number of which are in extreme danger of extinction, can be found here. The world’s largest population of lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants and the endemic bonobo and okapi also make their home here.
Historic forest initiative – major obstacles
DR Congo has pledged to achieve ambitious milestones in efforts to reduce deforestation, and proposed a national strategy in 2012 identifying important measure to combat both direct and indirect drivers of deforestation.
In the years from 2016 to 2020, Norway has promised up to NOK 400 million annually to the countries in the Congo Basin via the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). DR Congo is the largest partner. The agreement is crucial for the work to reduce deforestation and promote sustainable development.
CAFI is the largest international partnership for the preservation of Central Africa’s rainforest that has ever existed. The objective of CAFI’s funding to DR Congo is to counteract the underlying reasons for deforestation by supporting DR Congo’s own investment plan. The money will inspire the development of a green economy that provides jobs and income without destroying the forest.
In 2018, DR Congo granted licences to cut down rainforest timber in an area of 6500 square kilometres of rainforest despite an existing moratorium on logging. This contravenes national legislation and is in breach of the CAFI Letter of Intent. Norway has therefore stopped some of the disbursements through the CAFI agreement for the time being.
The political, economic and security situation in DR Congo has been a key risk factor from the outset in the climate and forestry partnership.
DR Congo’s national forest strategy will be implemented by a national investment plan. The plan has been prepared with UN assistance. Norway has supported these efforts, and has also contributed to the establishment of a national fund that in 2016 began to issue calls for proposals for programmes that will promote the implementation of this investment plan.
Norway has also supported regional efforts through the Congo Basin Forest Fund, which, for example, has contributed to the development of land use plans for altogether eight million hectares of land in DR Congo, the Central African Republic and Cameroon. The Fund will be wound up in 2018 as planned.
Norway’s Climate and Forest Initiative also entails support to civil society organisations managed via Norad. This support partly targets the combatting of forest crime, strengthens the rights of those who depend on the forest for their livelihood and improves access to information and greater transparency regarding deforestation.
DR Congo’s first free national election took place in 2006. Through the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework agreement signed in Addis Ababa in 2013, the country has pledged to implement wide-sweeping reforms within democracy, decentralisation and the security sector.
In 2018, the country faced a critical moment in its history. According to the Constitution, the head of state would be replaced democratically for the first time since independence, but the election, which should have taken place by the end of 2016, was postponed several times already. This led to a very tense political situation domestically. The election was held on 30 December 2018. Kabila, the sitting president, did not run for election.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed great concern about the development. They report an increase in breaches of political rights and freedoms committed by government representatives.
The country has 4.4 million internally displaced refugees, the highest number in Africa according to UN figures.