In her first visit to the African continent, U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) Monica Medina visited the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) February 20-25 to discuss continued U.S.-DRC cooperation under the Biden Administration in addressing the climate crisis, promoting biodiversity, combating environmental crimes, and strengthening healthcare systems. Her visit underscored our efforts to make sure that the U.S.-DRC Privileged Partnership for Peace, Prosperity, and Preservation of the Environment (PP4PPP)delivers for the Congolese and American people.
President Felix Tshisekedi and Assistant Secretary Medina discussed how the United States and DRC can cooperate to meet commitments made at the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26), especially efforts to safeguard critical ecosystems like the Earth’s second largest rainforest, the Congo Basin, to address the climate crisis. They also discussed the role President Biden’s Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative could play to support DRC’s environmental goals.
On Monday, Assistant Secretary attended a virtual meeting of Congo Basin environmental ministers, hosted by Vice Prime Minister of the Environment Eve Bazaiba, and separately discussed with the Vice Minister’s team progress towards the design and implementation of a Forest Policy that covers land use, management of logging concessions and forest product, as well as integrating climate change.
Assistant Secretary Medina benefited from meetings with civil society organizations involved in preserving biodiversity and combatting nature crime, as well as meeting Team Dunia, the Congolese Zoohackathon winners who went on to win the second place in the global competition. Duniademonstrated their cutting-edge app that not only educates the public about wildlife crimes, but gives people tools to report animals in distress. Both of these meetings provided excellent background for Medina’s visit to Virunga National Park, where she met with ICCN (DRC’s Nature Conservancy Agency) Acting Director Olivier Mushiete and Park Director Emmanuel de Merode, and witnessed how U.S.-Congolese cooperative programs are effectively addressing illegal logging and wildlife trafficking in order to conserve the biodiversity in this important park. The Assistant Secretary also met with a group of the Park’s Ecoguards and honor those guards who had died in the line of duty over the past two years.
” I came to the DRC to listen, to learn, and to lead a new relationship between our countries for a healthier planet. I am inspired to see the dedication of Congolese environmental authorities to follow through on President Tshisekedi’s vision of DRC being a “solution country” on combatting climate change, including by conserving the environment and fostering sustainable development, especially in reference to the Congo Basin rainforest – the world’s first lung,” said Medina. “I am proud of the role the United States is playing in conserving this critical ecosystem, and I look forward to growing our privileged partnership with the DRC for the benefit of the Congolese people, the American people and the world.”
Assistant Secretary Medina also met with Vice Minister for Health Veronique Kilumba Nkulu to discuss how best to use U.S. assistance to increase the uptake of vaccinations against COVID-19, and to continue to address other virulent diseases, including Ebola. In Goma, Assistant Secretary Medina was able to visit U.S.-funded programs with the INRB and Heal Africa, as well as meet with Mandela Washington Fellow Veridique Musambaghani, who is launching a new environmental science curriculum in several schools in Goma.