REDD+ People: Interview with Victor Kabengele Wa Kadilu

Posted on 02 April 2014    
Victor Kabengale
© Courtesy IISD
Interview with Victor Kabengele Wa Kadilu, REDD+ National Coordinator for the National REDD Coordination Committee (CN-REDD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Q: What is your current position?

I am currently the national coordinator in charge of coordinating all activities and actions related to the implementation of the REDD+ process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Q: What is your background?
I have a background in finance. I studied at what is now called the University of Kinshasa and spent much of my early career in big corporate companies working with transport railways. After that, I worked in South Africa for 15 years running a trading business of commodities between DRC and South Africa, but in 2008 I came back to DRC to work for the Ministry of the Environment.

Q: How did you get involved in REDD+ work?
I was the representative of the Ministry of the Environment on the Forest Investment Program (FIP) Subcommittee at the World Bank and also took part in the negotiations for getting DRC approved as a pilot country for REDD+. I participated in the negotiations that ultimately led to a grant for 60 million USD to DRC for implementing activities on the ground from the FIP, and I also participated in the development of the investment plan for implementation.

I am also a member of the task force for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations for DRC and a member of the REDD+ Partnership team. In short, I have been very involved in REDD+ progress for a number of years.

Q: What have been some of the challenges in the DRC ER-PIN process?
From my point of view, we have five primary challenges – participation, consultation, coordination of implementation, governance and, finally, the sheer size of our country.

Participation of stakeholders, especially forest communities and indigenous peoples, can often be difficult to initiate and sustain. It can also be a challenge to coordinate participation of civil society organizations and the private sector. Consultation, particularly with local communities, indigenous peoples, and women and youth, is something we are very much looking to improve, especially in the implementation of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) related to REDD+.

Coordination of the means of implementation is another challenge we face. As you know, the process of REDD+ in DRC came about through support from both the UN-REDD Programme and the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), so we need to coordinate with these and other partners, all of which have their own financial procedures, reporting requirements, etc.

Governance has also been a challenge for us, because so many of our laws, codes and regulations were adopted long before REDD+ started. So, we are currently focusing on work with diverse stakeholders to modernize many laws and governance practices. Last but not least, the sheer size of DRC makes REDD+ work hard at times. We are a huge country, the 11th largest in the world, with a population of 75 million, so it’s not easy to manage the REDD+ process, or any process, across such an enormous space.

Q: What are the goals of CN-REDD?
The objective of CN-REDD is to oversee and facilitate a number of implementation tools and systems to make REDD+ happen. These include:

• Writing a REDD+ national strategy. The strategy was finalized in November 2012 and highlights the DRC government’s vision for economic and social development in the context of the REDD+ mechanism.

• Setting up a national REDD+ fund to collect and channel diverse sources of funding, including funding from the UNFCCC Green Climate Fund. This was completed in September 2013.

• Implementing a REDD+ registry to track REDD+ projects and progress. We expect this to be fully operational this year.

• Creating a national forest monitoring system (NFMS). Ours is called Terra Congo and is based on Terra Amazon (from Brazil). This tool will be the basis for a complete MRV system for tracking carbon activity.

• Establishing national social and environmental REDD+ standards in line with UNFCCC guidance and World Bank safeguards recommendations. We expect these to be finalized next month.

• Developing an independent grievance mechanism for public complaint and feedback, including an independent observer to check in on the system.

Q: What has been the biggest achievement since its start a few years ago?
In my opinion, we have had many big achievements since our inception. The first is the full national appropriation of the process, which means full political commitment at the national level. Without this support, REDD+ could not move forward in our country. We have also had enthusiastic participation of stakeholders, in particular, from civil society. We have had full support of the UN-REDD Programme and the FCPF from the very beginning, which has helped the process move ahead more smoothly.

It is also quite an accomplishment to have moved past the first phase of REDD+ work, the preparation phase, and to be entering the investment phase. There are three phases for REDD+, and we were in the first phase from 2009 to 2012, so we spent last year wrapping that up and preparing for the next step in our REDD+ process. We are now focusing on bringing REDD+ down to the local level. We’re meeting with communities and talking about what REDD+ is and what it can help us all achieve. I’m also very proud of the finalization of the national strategy and the development of some key tools – national REDD+ fund, the REDD+ registry, NFMS, and the social and environmental strategic assessment.

Q: How are national institutions like CN-REDD continuing to improve the systems and workflows for REDD+ in DRC?
CN-REDD is a technical branch of the Ministry of the Environment that works to oversee pilot REDD+ projects on the ground, among many other things. We currently have two kinds of pilot projects, those funded through the FIP (US$60 million) and those funded by the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF) (US$24 million). These pilots need to be implemented so that we can collect the lessons and experiences from work on the ground and help us improve our REDD+ strategy. We will take this information from actual experiences in communities and feed that back into the REDD+ framework we have to make it even more valuable and accurate.

CN-REDD also works with members of parliament through the Globe International Initiative to update laws, codes and regulations. So many of our laws and regulations were adopted long before the REDD+ process was advanced, so we’re now working to bring those up to date to ensure that they support the work we’re doing on REDD+.

We work closely with a number of different ministerial departments to coordinate the REDD+ process. With the Ministry of the Environment as the leader of this cross-cutting process, our team coordinates with the ministries of finance, energy, land management, land tenure, agriculture and mining/petrol to oversee the REDD+ work in our country, with a view of managing DRC’s resources sustainably.

Finally, our office also focuses on land tenure and land management reform issues to make sure we secure and modernize land tenure and land management.

Q: What are you most excited about for the future of REDD+ in DRC?
The DRC has a very important role to play when it comes to REDD+ in Africa. We were the first country in Africa to have its REDD+ Preparation Plan (R-PP) approved in March 2010. We are also the first country to receive funding of 60 million USD from the FIP to have our REDD+ registry finalized, and the first country to have our National REDD+ Strategy and National REDD+ Fund finalized. This is a great chance for us to take a leading role in this part of the world. We are also working hard to ensure that DRC is the first High Forest Low Deforestation (HFLD) country to be admitted into the FCPF pipeline through the development and submission of our Emissions Reduction Program Idea Note (ER-PIN), which focuses on two districts in the Bandundu Province. This is a huge jurisdictional nested programme of 12 million hectares, and this is a really exciting time for us. We hope to develop lots of other REDD+ programmes that can be good examples not only in the DRC, but also in the Congo Basin region as a whole.

Q: Do you have any final words to share?
The implementation of the REDD+ process is an important opportunity for the DRC to embark in a long-term economic and social low-carbon development process without sacrificing our forest resources. The innovative lessons that we have learned and will learn in this very exciting process will be shared with other developing tropical forest countries, especially those in the Congo Basin region.
Victor Kabengale
© Courtesy IISD Enlarge

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