A new funding mechanism to protect the forests of the Congo Basin has been launched. Presented on 22 September 2023 at the UN Climate Summit in New York, the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Forest Fund (IIFF) will enable these groups to play a leading role in securing, protecting and managing the forests on which they depend. The $5 million initiative, launched by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN), is dedicated to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which holds around two-thirds of the forest in the Congo Basin.
The link between human rights and biodiversity is becoming clearer in Africa. In a study published in 2021, the Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) notes and deplores the low level of climate finance allocated to indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) in tropical countries. Over the last ten years, they have received an average of only around 270 million dollars a year. This is equivalent to less than 1% of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) earmarked for climate change mitigation and adaptation over the same period. It also represents only 30% of what has been identified as necessary for transformational land reform in just 24 tropical countries.
But for IPLCs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the situation should improve. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the RFN have set up a fund that can be accessed directly by these peoples. This is the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Forest Fund (IIFF). Launched on 22 September 2023 at the United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York, this $5 million fund will enable indigenous forest peoples, particularly those from the Equateur and South Kivu provinces (Aka and Twa), to play a leading role in securing, protecting and managing the forests on which they depend. These groups are jealous of their ‘lands’ and have a long tradition of opposing deforestation and the illegal trade in wildlife. The creation of this facility demonstrates our commitment to facilitating financing opportunities for indigenous peoples and local communities while respecting their values and their role in protecting the forests of the Congo Basin. Communities play a central role in the protection of high integrity ecosystems and, in turn, high integrity ecosystems are essential to the well-being of communities, as their endogenous knowledge, traditions, livelihoods and land tenure systems are deeply linked to these DRC forests », explains Jean-Paul Kibambe, Country Programme Director for WCS DRC. And yet these first peoples, who witness illegal logging and mining in the forest on a daily basis, are often forgotten by the international community.
Part of the new funding will be used to combat the abusive evictions of indigenous peoples in the DRC and to give them direct access to capital (without intermediaries) to develop community forestry and their historically ecological practices. The launch of the Fund was also made possible by seed funding from the Bezos Earth Fund set up by US billionaire Jeff Bezos, the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) and the UK government’s €288 million Forest Governance, Markets and Climate Programme (FGMC).