AfDB Hosts Conference on Funding for Sustainable Management of Congo Basin Forest Ecosystems

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Tunis, 21 February 2008 – The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group is currently funding 80 ongoing operations to the tune of US$ 2.7 billion in all sectors of activity in ten countries of the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC).

Speaking during a two-day conference on financing mechanisms on the sustainable management of Congo Basin forest ecosystems that opened on Thursday in Tunis, Bank Group President, Donald Kaberuka,  disclosed that the institution was planning to invest US$ 814 million in 13 operations, including five multilateral projects on natural resources management in Central Africa. The institution is also preparing a regional integration programme on the conservation of biodiversity and the improvement of ecotourism in the Great Lakes region worth US$ 65 million. The programme, which will equally include a component on institutional support to the COMIFAC Executive Secretariat and partner organs, will be presented to the Bank Group’s board of directors this year, Mr. Kaberuka said.

"The forests of the Congo Basin cover a large part of central Africa and represent the second largest remaining humid tropical forest in the world. In terms of size, these forests, which play major economic and climatic roles, constitute a vast water basin and potential carbon reserve. But unfortunately, their existence is under threat mainly due to factors relating to poverty and governance crises, including prolonged conflicts," Mr. Kaberuka emphasized.

He noted that through conservation, sustainable management and improvement of the Congo Basin ecosystems, the process of carbon extraction could be improved to benefit the local population in particular and the world in general.

The Bank Group has initiated discussions that will enable it host the secretariat of the trust (fiduciary) fund on Congo Basin forests, President Kaberuka said, adding that there were ongoing efforts with the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) aimed at carrying out future operations in the areas of forest resources management and climate change.

Last year, the African Water Facility, which is hosted by the Bank Group, allocated a grant of € 2 million to the riparian states for the preparation of a strategic action plan for the sustainable management of the basin’s water resources, which is looked after by the International Commission of the Congo-Oubangui-Sangha Basin.

Mr. Kaberuka commended Japan for its intention to raise all issues concerning climate change and forests on the international scene. He also praised the United States and France for their roles in the Congo Basin forests partnership. He hailed efforts by Germany, which assumed its two-year leadership of the partnership in October 2007, as well as civil society, bilateral and multilateral organizations attending the conference.

In his opening remarks, Equatorial Guinea’s Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Domingo Olomo Nve,  who represented COMIFAC president,  commended the Bank Group for fulfilling the pledge it made during the 2nd Summit Meeting of Heads of State of Central African States on Forest Ecosystems Conservation and Sustainable Management held in Brazzaville, Congo, from February 4-5, 2005, to help COMIFAC implement its Convergence Plan and all sub-regional and national initiatives that will help to reduce poverty in the sub-region.

Former Canadian Prime Minister and co-chair of the Congo Basin Fund, Paul Martin, and Nobel Peace, Laureate and honorary Congo Basin Ambassador, Wangari Maathai, were expected to join the meeting later on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

The conference was also attended by COMIFAC representatives, ministers and officials of the Congo Basin region, civil society groups, representatives of international organisation as well as other Congo Basin Partners such as DFID (UK), Germany, Belgium, Canada, the European Commission, the Unites States, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.

The conference is expected to produce a declaration on the sustainable management of forest ecosystems in the Congo Basin and an announcement by the Bank Group on the design of an institutional support project for the COMIFAC Executive Secretariat and other partners responsible for the management of natural resources in the Congo Basin.

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