Congo Basin Forest Partnership Conference
Sawa Hotel, Douala, Cameroon | March 2, 2012, 12:00 noon
Remarks by H.E. Mr. Robert P. Jackson
United States Ambassador to Cameroon
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you at the close of this important session of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership.
It has been impressive to see this partnership in action and to see the quality of constructive dialogue and collaboration among the many partners in this room. It is clear that, in the ten years since this partnership’s inception, it has matured under the committed leadership of successive facilitations, with close collaboration among African governments, COMIFAC, and other long-standing partners. It is also encouraging to see the partnership continue to grow, with new private sector partners and donors such as Norway committing to the CBFP principles and bringing new resources to bear.
As we look toward Rio+20 in Brazil next June, we see a prime opportunity to showcase the partnership and its accomplishments, and hope to work with many of you to do so.
Indeed, it is difficult to imagine where we would be now if not for the collaborative platform this partnership has offered in the past ten years, to focus our collective efforts in strategic ways. Its informality and flexibility has allowed all partners to work effectively and efficiently, and to adapt with the changing times. Most importantly, the partnership has supported several key achievements:
- Strategic and inclusive land management planning across broad ecological landscapes throughout the basin;
- The development of national parks and other protected areas;
- Better forest concession management;
- Improvements in transparency and access to information;
- Preservation of biodiversity, flora and fauna;
- The State of the Forest Report and other innovations in mapping and geospatial information that capitalize on the best science and research have to offer in the region; and
- Improved capacity for community management of local resources.
In our view, the CBFP now serves as a leading example for the conservation and sustainable management of other major ecosystems of global importance.
But there remain a number of challenges.
For one, wildlife poaching has reached a zenith in some areas. In northern Cameroon, for example, as many as 250 to 300 elephants have been slain for their ivory since the beginning of the dry season in November. Within Bouba Ndjida Park, poachers reportedly killed 140-200 elephants in January alone, representing roughly one-third to one-half of the park’s population of elephants. As my colleague from Libreville, Ambassador Benjaminson has stated, the United States is deeply concerned about this issue. We compliment the Government of Cameroon for having sent the military into the park to stop the poaching and secure the border. We look to work with Cameroon and our other CBFP partners to stem wildlife poaching in the region. Poaching is not a question of food or income for today; it is a question of biodiversity, food, and income for generations. We hope many of you will be able to attend the workshop on wildlife poaching that we are proud to co-sponsor with Gabon in Libreville this April.
Similarly, climate change affects forest ecosystems and agricultural production, and hence food security, in a multitude of ways. On the other hand, healthy forests can help to minimize the impact of climate change on forest communities.
In the absence of broad, strategic sustainable development planning, demographic change, rising global demand for agricultural products, and infrastructure development increasingly drive loss of tropical forests worldwide. West Africa was richly forested only a decade or two ago, and now is almost completely depleted of its forest ecosystems and wildlife. Central Africa could share that fate without accelerated action to protect and manage the region’s natural ecosystems and their services – the biodiversity, fresh water, soil production and stability, pollination, marine resources, and carbon sequestration these rich ecosystems provide, which are key to food security and human well-being in the region.
The capacity to address these longer-term challenges depends fundamentally on mobilizing political will in the region, and marshalling the financial wherewithal to take action in the short term. We can only do this if we present leaders with a coherent narrative that goes beyond the forest canopy and links the region’s future prospects with the short-term decisions leaders make to address the passing crises of the moment. This narrative must not only tell a compelling story; it must also be backed up with the best science and world-class analysis.
Therein lies our opportunity, as a partnership, to engage with leaders and stakeholders in and outside the forest sector: to reverse policies that generate unsustainable outcomes; to develop incentives to advance sustainable practices; to bring to bear timely and accurate data to inform decision making; to mobilize urgent, ambitious and cooperative action to meet internationally-agreed goals; and to strengthen regional, national and local institutions.
To that end, we continue to see COMIFAC as a key intergovernmental partner in the region and we hope to see support from all Central African COMIFAC countries materialize, to make COMIFAC a self-sustaining body. We commend Cameroon most recently for taking that step.
As all of us here know, much remains to be done to address the drivers of deforestation and biodiversity loss in Central Africa. But the potential is also considerable for economic growth and development of livelihoods through sustainable management of forests and wildlife. The keys lie in partnership – real partnership – and rock solid political will and commitment from all corners to transform challenges into opportunities, and to achieve what we all wish for the region: healthy ecosystems and, ultimately, secure and prosperous people.
Thank you for your attention.