Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), January 13, 2023 – The United States Government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), signed a new partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to launch a new project to advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This new project aligns with the United States Government’s pledge at the Conference of Parties (CoP 26) to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, concerning Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities’ (IP and LC) forest tenure rights and greater recognition and rewards for their role as guardians of forests and nature.
The project, entitled “USAID’s Let’s Protect Our Rights and Our Environment (Tulinde Haki na Mazingira Yetu) Activity,” is designed in partnership with local communities and civil society around three protected areas with four main goals: (1) strengthening capacity and empowerment of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations in self-determination; (2) improving social cohesion and reducing Indigenous Peoples’ marginalization in society so that they are included in decision-making; (3) strengthening IP and LC engagement in natural resource conservation to strengthen conservation outcomes, reduce conflict over land and natural resources, and stem unsustainable natural resource use; and (4) strengthening Indigenous Peoples’ access to social services and financial security. As part of this integrated project, 18,000 Indigenous women and men will benefit from diverse support as prioritized by IP and LC including livelihoods, such as agriculture and conservation, education including literacy, internships, and scholarships, and basic health services amongst others.
USAID/DRC Mission Director John Dunlop stated, “this is an important milestone which supports USAID’s Policy for Advancing the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (PRO-IP), the United States Government’s pledge at the CoP 26 for greater recognition and rewards for Indigenous Peoples as guardians of forests and nature, and the DRC’s recently promulgated law to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples. We look forward to a dynamic consortium of local and international partners working together to advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples and a rights-based conservation practice.”
Dr. Jean-Paul Kibambe, Country Director of WCS DRC, added “for too long, Indigenous Peoples’ human rights and their needs for justice, capacity strengthening, and self-determination have been ignored. Now, in the wake of DRC’s first law for Indigenous Peoples, we are honored to play a modest role in addressing these issues together around key biodiversity areas which are important to not only Indigenous Peoples, but all Congolese.”
Diel Mochire, Director of PIDP (Programme Intégré pour le Développement du Peuple Pygmée au Kivu), added “this project is timely, as it will move hand in hand with law n°22/030 of 15 July 2022 on the protection and promotion of indigenous pygmy peoples’ rights, recently promulgated by DRC’s President. This is the first legal text in the country for Indigenous Peoples, which aims to safeguard the specific rights of Indigenous forest peoples, facilitating improved access to justice and social services, recognizing civil & political rights, and rights to land and natural resources they occupy, use, or own.”
Working through over 20 local partners, WCS, International Alert, Catholic Relief Services and Welthungerhilfe will form alliances to strengthen and advance the rights of IP and LC in and around three of Eastern DRC’s protected areas: Kabobo Wildlife Reserve, Kahuzi-Biega National Park, and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve – sites where WCS and The Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) are currently active. The goals of this project will also be supported by a grant from the Bezos Earth Fund to WCS in 2022, as part of the $100M pledge made at COP 26 in Glasgow and the Congo Basin Forest pledge.
The partnership’s strong foundation was laid throughout a year-long, participatory, and collaborative co-design process with IP and LC from concept inception through proposal development. Support for Indigenous Peoples around protected areas and their involvement in conservation efforts is critical for the protection of Congo’s rich biodiversity and essential for the survival of Indigenous Peoples.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID works to help lift lives, build communities, and advance democracy. USAID’s work demonstrates American generosity and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience. President John. F. Kennedy created the United States Agency for International Development by executive order in 1961 to lead the U.S. government’s international development and humanitarian efforts.
Wildlife Conservation Society is a U.S. NGO established in 1895 that saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. With more than a century of experience, WCS has been established in the DRC since 1985, and has amassed the biological knowledge, cultural understanding, and well-established partnerships to ensure that vibrant, wild places and wildlife thrive alongside local communities.
Ineke Stoneham, Spokesperson, Embassy of the United States, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean-Paul KIBAMBE, Country Director, WCS DRC – email@example.com
Gabriel GELIN, Regional Communications Manager for Central Africa & Gulf of Guinea, WCS – firstname.lastname@example.org