in DR Congo, Norway

Response from Lars Ekman on Norway, REDD and corruption in DR Congo

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Response from Lars Ekman on Norway, REDD and corruption in DR Congo

On 23 January 2013, REDD-Monitor wrote about the dangers of corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Part of the post was about a presentation that Lars Ekman, a senior advisor at Norad, gave on REDD and the risks of corruption.

In his presentation, Ekman told a story of being given a draft contract between a “known businessman” in Kinshasa and the Ministry of Forestry and Environment, for a REDD project covering an area of 50 million hectares. Together with UN-REDD and the World Bank, Ekman visited the Minister and threatened to cancel the REDD pilot in DRC if the contract was signed.

In November 2012, REDD-Monitor asked Ekman some questions about this story and about REDD and corruption in DR Congo. Ekman replied yesterday, with an explanation of his position in Kinshasa and some background information on REDD in DR Congo, and his answers to the questions. REDD-Monitor’s questions are inserted into Ekman’s response, in bold:

From: Lars Ekman
Date: 6 February 2013 14:35
Subject: Answer to questions on REDD+ DRC
To: Chris Lang

Dear Mr. Lang,

Thank you for your questions regarding the important and indeed critical issue of governance and corruption related to REDD+ in DRC and apologies for responding late.

First let me clarify that Norad was not present nor represented in DRC at the time. It still isn’t.

Norad is up to now mainly a technical agency advising the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on development cooperation issues in general. In relation to the Norwegian Climate and Forest initiative Norad also advices the Ministry of Environment leading the initiative, in addition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Norad also administers grants to civil society organizations engaged in REDD+. Norad further hosts an evaluation department, which follows the Norwegian climate and Forest Initiative. Please consult our website for further details and reports including on DRC. General information on the Norwegian Governments Climate and Forest Initiative is available on the website of the Norwegian Ministry of Environment responsible for the initiative.

Only very rarely Norad directly manages and operates its own projects in the field in contrast to some other bilateral aid agencies.

At the time of the event you refer to Norad did not manage any specific project in DRC nor did I did work for Norad. I was posted to Kinshasa by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Counselor for climate and environmental affairs, attached to Norwegian Embassy in Angola. My main function was to liaise with the various partners to the Norwegian Climate and Forest Initiative in the Congo Basin, notably UNREDD, AfDB/Congo Basin Forest Fund, WWF, WB/Forest Carbon Partnership and FIP and the Norwegian Rainforest Foundation.

After completing my posting in Kinshasa in the summer of 2010, I returned to Oslo, taking up a new position in Norad as senior advisor in the department for Climate, Energy and Environment. It was in this latter capacity I was invited to participate in the CMI-U4 work shop in Bergen. In my comment I briefly shared my previous experience in Kinshasa merely to illustrate that corruption and governance challenges are real. I have not followed DRC in detail since I returned to Oslo in the summer of 2011.

It is no secret that DRC is probably the most challenging country when it comes to governance and corruption. All agencies and partners involved in trying to preserve the world’s second largest rainforest are well aware of this challenge and are taking measures to deal with it in the best way possible. Transparency and accountability need as you indicate to be dealt with in a comprehensive and systematic way. It is especially important in the very design of REDD+ institutions and procedures. I recommend that you invite the national REDD+ coordination unit to present their plans and perspectives in your blog.

Norway is a major contributor globally to governance and anti-corruption efforts both generally and specifically in REDD+. Norway supports for example through the Climate and Forest Initiative accountability, transparency and anticorruption in REDD+ through contributions by Transparency International, Environment Investigation Agency, U4 Anticorruption Centre, Globe International, Rights and Resources Initiative, WRI. Governance and anticorruption is also a key theme for UNREDD, who for example recently released the publication “Ensuring inclusive, transparent and accountable national REDD+ systems: the role of freedom of information” aiming at contributing to robust national REDD+ designs in DRC and other REDD implementing countries.”

Enforcement is also important. Consequently Norad administers support to Interpol engagement in enforcement of forest crimes and especially illegal logging involving international crime syndicates.

Finally, it is also crucial to react rapidly to concrete cases, when they appear not least in the constituting phases, before all systems and institutions are in place. The short story at the seminar was about such a situation with the purpose to illustrate that the challenges are real.

Concerning the specific questions:

  1. R-M: Transparency is essential when dealing with corruption issues. Did you make a copy of the draft contract available publicly? Do you still have a copy of the contract and if so, could you please send me a copy?

    The unsigned draft contract has not been made public to my knowledge. At the time it was not deemed appropriate to publish, mainly in order to protect the whistleblower. This concern remains valid.

  2. R-M: You say that the draft contract is between a “known businessman in Kinshasa” and the government. Who is the “known businessman”? Was the “known businessman” one of the Blattner family?

    It was not a member of the family you mention. I cannot comment further due to the need to protect the source.

  3. R-M: Is the message that NORAD, UN-REDD and the World Bank sent to the DR Congo government publicly available? If not, why not?

    As explained above Norad was not present in Kinshasa. The message was communicated orally to the minister and not recorded.

  4. R-M: Did NORAD, UN-REDD or the World Bank react in a similar way with any other REDD projects in DR Congo? For example, when Shift2Neutral, Ecosystem Restoration Associates or Conservation International set up (or attempted to set up) REDD projects in DRC.

    Not to my knowledge. Regarding Shift2Neutral the ministry/MECNT publicly distanced itself from Shift2Neutral through an open letter signed by the minister and published on their website. As noted above Norad wasn’t present. Please consult with UNREDD and WB directly regarding their possible actions/positions on the referred cases.

  5. R-M: Did NORAD, UN-REDD or the World Bank react when McKinsey drew up its report on REDD in DRC in five weeks (a report that spectacularly failed to address the serious governance and corruption problems in DRC)?

    Generally it was my impression while in DRC that all serious REDD+ partners in DRC were and still are concerned about the serious corruption risks in DRC, and engaged in mitigating it. Regarding the McKinsey DRC REDD+ study Norad was never requested to review it. In my personal opinion it never came to play any influential role in the REDD+ process in DRC, and it certainly did not lead key partners to reduce their attention on the governance challenges. For example, the Norwegian Embassy in Luanda, which represents Norway in most of the Congo Basin countries, requested Norad to undertake a thorough analysis of the corruption challenges related to REDD+ in DRC and how to deal with them. The study, was carried out by a joint Norad, UNDP and PWC team. It was later used in the dialogue on the REDD+ strategy as well as motivating Norad to finance initiatives such as MOABI aiming at increasing transparency and to facilitate civil society participation in and scrutiny of REDD+ activities.

  6. R-M: I think it’s almost certainly good that NORAD, UN-REDD and the World Bank reacted to the draft contract you received, particularly as it covered such a large area. My concern however, is that the action did not really address corruption in any meaningful way. Couldn’t the same “known businessman” set up another REDD type project (or any other type of project) using his contacts in the government, just being more careful the next time about who gets to hear about the proposal before it is signed?

    This is a risk. However it is now being reduced by the establishment of the National REDD+ registry, a key part in the REDD+ institutional set up in DRC. The registry will post the details of project approvals, and will eventually include on-the-ground info from approved carbon offset projects. A project that has not been validated or approved by government with all info provided will thus not be allowed to generate and obtain carbon credits in DRC.

With the best regards

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