Yaoundé Forest Declaration - a quick Q&A
The rainforests of the Congo Basin are the richest ecosystem in the region and are home to more than half of Africa's wild plant and animals. But these forests are under threat: overall 4 million hectares of African forests are destroyed each year due to growing human population, illegal logging, poaching and conversion of forest land to other uses.
The Yaoundé Forest Summit and its Declaration and subsequent implementation has been, is now, and will continue to be crucial in securing a future for the people and the wildlife in the region.
The Summit continues to serve as an example of how neighbouring nations can work together to protect nature and those that depend on it for survival - both man and animal.
For wildlife, new protected areas and anti-poaching laws set up by the Declaration help to protect their lives in a region where little to no laws existed in the past.
For the people, some of who rely heavily on logging concessions for income, it is important that the management of these forests is carried out in a sustainable way in order to ensure that there are enough forests for generations to come.
This initiative also sends a signal to other voluntary conservation organizations and inter-government agencies to put effort and resources into a concerted programme for forest conservation and sustainable management and take action for the forests of their country.
Q. In a just a few words, what was the Yaoundé Forest Summit?
The Yaoundé Forest Summit was held on March 15-18, 1999 in Yaoundé, Cameroon - hence its name. It was a groundbreaking event hosted by President Paul Biya of Cameroon and chaired by HRH Prince Philip, President Emeritus of WWF.
The outcome was that 6 African Heads of State signed what was called the Yaoundé Declaration.
This declaration contained plans to protect vast tracts of forest in the Congo Basin, Central Africa.
Together the President of Cameroon, Heads of State and representatives from the governments of Gabon, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea came together to jointly announce plans to create new cross-border forest protected areas.
The Yaoundé Forest Summit thus elevated forest conservation and management to one of the most important issues in the sub-region and marked a turning point in the political commitment to forest conservation in the region.
Q. How did it all begin?
The origins of the Summit date back to July 1998 when WWF's Forests for Life Campaign hosted a dinner in London to present certificates to the diplomatic representatives of Cameroon and Gabon in recognition of their respective Gifts to the Earth for forest conservation.
In a conversation between Claude Martin, Director General of WWF and Cameroonian High Commissioner to London, the possibility of a Forest Summit was first addressed. The Commissioner then discussed the idea with the President of Cameroon and plans between WWF and the governments soon followed.
Q. What is in the Yaoundé Declaration?
The Yaoundé Declaration (pdf 74 KB) consists of 12 commitments made by the participating Heads of State in terms of forest conservation and sustainable forest management. To finance these commitments, the Declaration also called on donor nations to help set up a sub-regional Trust Fund.
Q. What is being done to make sure the Declaration is implemented?
The evidence is in what has already been accomplished since the first summit in 1999.
Q. What is the purpose of the second forest summit?
The first Summit elevated forest conservation in Africa to a political high; the second summit will take it several notches higher.
The 2nd Central Africa Heads of State Forest Summit (Yaoundé +5) is being held in Congo Brazzaville to assess what has been done for the Congo Basin forests since the first summit and celebrate achievements which came from that original meeting.
In addition, it will allow participating countries to define new directions and make further commitments to safeguard this rich world natural heritage for both people and wildlife.
Foremost will be the signing of the African continent's first regional conservation treaty - the COMIFAC treaty - giving legal recognition to the sub-regional grouping, the Central African Forests Commission.
Another important outcome will be the signing of the Dja-Odzala-Minkebe (TRIDOM) Accord. Covering about 14.6 million hectares, and representing an estimated 7.5% of the Congo Basin, the trans-border conservation zone spans across Cameroon, Gabon and Congo. All three governments have endorsed the Accord, and the UNDP-GEF has approved a US$10 million grant. TRIDOM will substantially help in strengthening the system of protected areas both nationally and regionally.
Last but not least, this second summit will welcome two more Central African nations - Angola and Sao Tome et Principe - to the Yaoundé Process of helping to conserve the region's forests.
Q. What is COMIFAC?
Originally called the Conference of Ministers, the Commission of Ministers in charge of Forests in Central Africa, or COMIFAC in short, was mandated by the Heads of State to implement the Yaoundé Declaration.
COMIFAC's establishment has facilitated efforts to put the various forest related initiatives under one umbrella. It is the only decision-making body on forests in Central Africa.