In the week before COP26, 234 Congolese and international organisations called on the Head of State of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to put an end to the illegal exploitation of protected areas.

Header photo: Upemba-Kundelungu Complex © Paul Villaespesa / IUCN NL

A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working for the protection of the environment in DRC, warns that the most vital ecosystems in DRC are under heavy threat because of illegal activities such as logging, mining and poaching. A lot of these illegal activities happen in protected areas.

Violation of Sustainable Development Goals

‘These activities put great pressure on the various ecosystem services that communities depend upon for their livelihoods. More than 50 million people in DRC depend on ecosystems for their survival,’ says Paul Villaespesa, expert East Africa at IUCN NL. Activities that damage nature in these areas are clearly in direct violation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the conservation objectives to which the Congolese government committed itself.

The coalition’s call to the Congolese government was supported by 43 international civil society organisations, including IUCN NL.

Controversial plans

The group of CSOs specifically highlighted controversial plans to build a hydroelectric dam in Upemba National Park in southern Congo, and a university in Virunga National Park. Villaespesa: ‘According to our partners, these plans directly threaten the security and integrity of the areas and of communities.’

Exploitation of protected areas

The letter was designed to address some of the serious challenges around nature conservation and the protection of community rights in DRC, as part of a growing resistance among civil society groups to the encroachment and exploitation of protected areas.

The 234 signatories called on President Tshisekedi to effectively put an end to what they see as the government-sanctioned wholesale destruction of such land, by upholding existing laws intended to prevent any developments that would pose a threat to the ecosystems within protected areas.

Inaccurate claims at climate summit

In a speech outlining the country’s objectives at the summit in Glasgow, the Prime Minister described the DRC as possessing “one of the greatest environmental potentials on the planet” and the “fifth world power in biodiversity”. One of the members of the coalition of CSOs, professor Aruna, questioned the accuracy of his claim. He said: ‘How can the government claim the DRC is a solution to climate change, if it is willing to permit the construction of a dam and a university in protected areas?’

‘As IUCN NL, we co-signed the letter to provide support to our many partners involved in the sustainable development process in the DRC,’ Villaespesa concludes.

Read the open letter

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