About the Authors: Amber James and Ellen Shaw serve in the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero led a roundtable discussion this week on the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP), which featured Heads of State from Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Republic of Congo, as well as the chair of the Central African Forest Commission. Assistant Secretary Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones for the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs also briefed Congress at a bicameral caucus hearing on the Partnership to highlight the U.S. government’s contributions to conserving the world’s second largest rainforest.
Since its establishment at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, the U.S. government — including the U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NASA — has invested more than $100 million in funds and technical expertise into the Partnership. By the end of 2009, U.S. programs through USAID’s Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) have helped improved the land management of 56 million hectares; trained 25,000 people in conservation; put in place 10 forest, biodiversity and conservation laws; allocated $2.5 million in small grants to local NGOs; and provided for logging concession monitoring in several Central African countries, with additional support from the World Bank and the European Union.
CBFP constitutes an international association of more than forty governments, international organizations, private sector and civil society representatives, and is designed to enhance sustainable management of the Congo Basin ecosystem. In her opening remarks at the roundtable discussion, Under Secretary Otero emphasized the importance of sustaining and increasing support for the Partnership: “In Central Africa, the challenges of deforestation, food security and agriculture, energy poverty, and economic growth are integrally connected, and require an integrated, strategic response. Despite many challenges, Central Africa is a region of great promise and hope, rich in natural resources that, if sustainably managed and governed, have the potential to provide future generations with economic growth and stability.”
To contribute to developing this integrated response, Under Secretary Otero focused the discussion on three key questions:: 1) the CBFP's role in economic growth and livelihoods; 2) CBFP contributions to cross-border cooperation and security; and 3) the role of the CBFP in development of democratic governance. U.S. and African government officials reaffirmed their commitment to action but acknowledged that a number of threats such as bushmeat hunting, poaching, illegal and unsustainable logging, mining and climate change will require further collaboration and funding support to resolve. Assistant Secretary Jones reiterated President Obama’s vision of the U.S.’s role in Africa, “[F]or America, the true sign of success is not simply whether we provide assistance, but whether we are partners in building Africa's capacity for transformational change.”