Tremendous victory for Indigenous Pygmy people of the Democratic Republic of Congo
The DRC Senate just passed the first national law on Indigenous peoples’ rights, taking the country one step closer to the protection of the world’s second largest rainforest.
This is the country’s first comprehensive national law on indigenous peoples’ rights, passed through the Senate 10 June.
With this law, the DRC becomes the second country in Africa to adopt a law on the protection of indigenous Pygmy peoples in Africa. It is expected to serve as a model for other states with indigenous communities on their national territories.
«It is with great joy, emotion and gratitude towards our creator that the Dynamics of Indigenous Peoples Groups (DGPA) confirms the adoption», said Patrick Saidi, national coordinator for the GDPA, a partner organisation of Rainforest Foundation Norway.
«This tremendous victory first and foremost belongs to indigenous peoples and their representative organizations, the DGPA and the REPALEF in particular,» said Toerris Jaeger, Secretary General of Rainforest Foundation Norway.
«This is a fantastic recompense to their tenacity, cohesion, and courage. Rainforest Foundation Norway is proud to be partnering with such amazing peoples for the last 20 years, providing support in their courageous struggle through this journey – that is only starting», Jaeger continued.
He added that the result would not have been possible without the longstanding support from NORAD, the Norwegian Directorate for Development Cooperation, to Congolese civil society.
“Achieving the full transformative potential of this law will now require long-term political, technical and financial commitment and support, at national and internal level. This always has been Achille’s heel of indigenous movements, particularly in the DRC,” Jaeger said.
Patrick Saidi of the Dynamics of Indigenous Peoples Groups (DGPA) has worked relentlessly to get the law passed, always battling against adversity, sometimes facing threats.
«The passing of this law demonstrates the genuine commitment of national authorities, civil society actors, technical and financial partners and grassroots communities in favor of the promotion, protection and safeguarding of the rights of indigenous Pygmy peoples as well as their effective integration into all aspects of national life», Saidi said.
He continued to say that the DGPA now will focus on the follow-up of the annoncement by H.E. the President of the Republic Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, on popularization of the law and on the development of its application measures.
Secretary General of the Rainforest Foundation Norway, Tørris Jæger, emphasizes that ensuring the recognition and rights of indigenous peoples in DRC is a prerequisite for success in the fight for sustainable management of vast areas of Congolese rainforest.
«Our hope is that the law will end the displacement of and abuse against the indigenous and local populations of the forest areas», Jaeger says.
«To get this law through in the Senate, our local partners have made great sacrifices. In DRC, being an activist on behalf of indigenous peoples and local people is dangerous. Many of the activists have lived with serious threats for many, many years. I do not think it is possible for us in Norway to understand the costs and the risks for both activists and indigenous peoples. Now we will join forces and work for implementing the law», says Jaeger.
The bill acknowledges that Indigenous peoples’ «living conditions are characterized by discrimination, stigmatization and many other forms of abuse which are the basis of political, administrative, economic, social and cultural marginalization.» The legislation in particular, guarantees Indigenous peoples recognition of traditions, customs and legal pharmacopoeia, easier access to justice and basic social services and the right to lands and natural resources they own, occupy or use, in accordance with the law in force.
Securing indigenous peoples’ land and resource rights is one of the most cost-effective measures to preserve rainforests. A recent study by Rainforest Foundation Norway, the RFN Falling short report 2021 showed that - despite its proven efficiency in protecting rainforests - indigenous peoples and local communities receive less than one percent of Official Development Assistance (ODA) for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
However, there are reasons to be hopeful. In a joint donor statement from November 2021, Country representatives and international organisation leaders announced “an initial, collective pledge of $1.7 billion of financing, from 2021 to 2025, to support the advancement of Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ forest tenure rights and greater recognition and rewards for their role as guardians of forests and nature”.
Furthermore, a Letter of Intent 2021-31 renewing the agreement between the Central African Forest Initiative and the Government of DRC expressed its support to the adoption and implementation of the law.
For further questions, please contact:
Kristin Rødland Buick
Senior Communications Advisor
Rainforest Foundation Norway