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Congo Basin: A global challenge-Interview with Former Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin

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Congo Basin: A global challenge-Interview with Former Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin

Paul Martin is a name well-known on the African continent. This Afro-optimist does not spare his efforts when it comes to improving living conditions on the continent; a cause he has taken up for decades. After having co-chaired a high level panel report on the Bank Group’s future, the former Canadian Prime Minister is also involved in other initiatives on the continent - the protection of the Congo basin forest against deforestation which is resulting in climate change and its consequences.

Present in Tunis during the international conference on financing mechanisms for the sustainable management of the Congo Basin forest ecosystems, Mr. Martin is in London for the launch of the Congo Basin Forest Fund which takes place from June 16-17, 2008. He is co-chairing the fund’s board of directors with Nobel Laureate, Wangari Maathai.

Question: It is believed that the Congo basin is suffering from attention deficiency on the part of the international community. The Congo basin does not appear to have the same attention like the Amazon. What is your take on this?

Answer: You are totally right and it is one of the issues officials of the fund will have to deal with. The Congo basin is considered as the world’s "second lung". This is a very important issue that needs to be known not only in Africa, but also across the globe. It is necessary to have a better understanding of the issue in order to find appropriate solutions. It is also important to draw the public’s attention to this issue, especially in industrialized countries.

I am, however, seeing increasing efforts at conscientizing and sensitizing many Africans. It is increasingly believed that the Congo Basin’s health is directly related to the future of the sub-region’s local population, in particular, and that of the continent, in general. In short, the stakes are not only regional or African, they also global. This issue needs to be addressed.

Question: Could we posit that if key economic players in the region increasingly consulted the population and ensured that it made greater benefits from its activities, there would be no urgency in intervening?

Answer: Like everywhere else, it is important to ensure improved governance in the use of resources, but there is also the issue of lack of resources in the countries involved. Governments do not yet have the necessary resources to undertake the changes required for the sustainable development of the Congo basin. These governments need foreign aid and that is what this fund is doing with concrete projects aimed at creating a positive and lasting impact on the lives of the local population and the future of their children.

Question: What explains your commitment to the continent?

Answer: It’s simple. I like Africa, I like Africans. It’s a relationship that dates many decades. It didn’t start yesterday! I believe in the continent’s incredible potential. Much is said about China, India, but these reservoirs of opportunities and development exist on the continent.  I am pleased to make a contribution to the development of this huge and vast potential.

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Name: Paul Martin Title: Former Canadian Prime Minister
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