HC Deb 19 April 2004 vol 420 cc391-2W
Ms Oona King

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps the Government are taking to ensure that the expansion of industrial logging in the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will not compromise the rights and livelihoods of the people dependent on the forest for their survival. [165480]

Hilary Benn

The Government of the DRC recognises that there should be better management of natural resources, including forests, so as better to contribute to national development and poverty reduction. DFID plans to support the strengthening of natural resource governance in the DRC, including forestry. As a first step we are currently supporting an analysis of the governance framework for natural resource extraction and options for improvements. In the meantime the Government is receiving assistance in the forestry sector from the World Bank, and DFID officials have been in dialogue with the Bank about this work. There is a possibility that DFID will provide assistance in this area to support the Bank's programme.

Commercial logging, needs to bring real benefits to the population of the DRC, and the interests of the large number of forest-dependent poor people in DRC should not be prejudiced by logging activities. With World Bank encouragement the Government of the DRC has put a moratorium on new forestry concessions until appropriate regulations are in place to govern the process. The World Bank is also supporting a review of previously allocated concessions, to ensure they meet the new forest code which includes provisions to ensure the rights of local communities.

DFID is also supporting the involvement of civil society in Central African countries to follow up on the Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Conference that took place last year. In addition, the EU aims to develop partnership agreements with individual countries under its Action Plan to strengthen forest governance in the Central African region.