The Republic of Congo was the first country in the Congo Basin and is still one of only three countries in the region to sign a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union. This means the Congolese Government will take on the task of guaranteeing the legality of the wood exported to the EU. This will reduce the burden on European buyers, who would otherwise have to do extensive due diligence to ensure the wood is of legal origin.
As such, Congo is committed to reforming its forest governance and implementing sustainable forest management policies, and has shown significant progress. The forest economy minister personally attended most sessions during the VPA negotiation process, which is a sign of the high importance this process has for the administration. Political reforms driven by the VPA include a new law on indigenous peoples, granting them equal access to schools and medical help.
For the first time, civil society has been strongly involved in forest-related political dialogue.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is the best indicator of responsible forest management in the Congo Basin. As of January 2015, more than 1.7 million ha were FSC-certified in Congo, and there is clear political will to increase this area. During a French Development Agency (AFD) conference in Brazzaville in May 2012, the forest economy minister declared that all concessions in the country are to be certified as quickly as possible. In July 2013, he announced that all forest concessions are to have management plans by 2015.
WWF provides support to forest companies that want to improve the way they operate and adapt best practices. Through the Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN), we help companies work towards certification and build the market for certified wood. By demanding FSC-certified wood, consumers in Europe and elsewhere can encourage responsible companies to improve their forest management, so that it benefits both local people and the amazing forests of the Congo Basin. Our work with companies is accompanied by policy dialogue work at the national and regional levels and support to civil society, to ensure local people have a say in the revision of laws and environmental debates.