6 November 2023

Collaboration Across the Three Basins to Protect Tropical Forests and Livelihoods


Secondary mature forest, Gabon

The Republic of Congo hosted the Summit of the Amazon – Congo – Borneo – Mekong – Southeast Asia, Summit of the Three Basins of Biodiversity Ecosystems, and Tropical Forests (S3B EBFT) from October 26 – 28 in Brazzaville.


Forests must be at the heart of our response to the climate change emergency; they are a natural carbon-capture technology.​ Accounting for 30% of the earth’s land surface, forests absorb a third of greenhouse gases emitted every year. Together, these regions account for 80% of the world’s tropical forests, while the Congo Basin alone can hold 30 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to three years of global fuel emissions.


Additionally, they are home to two-thirds of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. These forests are some of the most important ecosystems on the planet and incredibly important to people too – providing home and livelihoods to 1.5 billion people. The Congo Basin, inhabited for more than 50,000 years, provides food, fresh water and shelter to more than 75 million people, including nearly 150 distinct ethnic groups.  Destruction of the forest will push the most vulnerable communities into poverty and food insecurity.


The three basins are all regions that Proforest works in, to support a just transition to responsible sourcing and production of agricultural commodities like soy, beef, palm oil, sugar, cocoa and rubber. Commodity production is core for economic growth, and countries need international support to enable that growth while protecting these precious, critical natural resources.


3,000 representatives from the public and private sectors, CSOs, research organizations, scientists, international organizations and Indigenous Peoples met with the goal to establish a global coalition for climate, forests and biodiversity. Key aims of the Summit included:


  • To promote scientific and technical cooperation, strengthen capacities and increase the influence of the three basins in multilateral forums. With increasing international regulation, such as the European Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) elevating the voice of producer countries is more important than ever.
  • To promote the establishment of effective global governance for the management of environmental and climate challenges at a planetary scale. No single country can regulate or reform to address these challenges alone. However, nor is it just for governments; private sector, including companies and financial institutions, must be part of the governance and accountability and transparency called for.
  • To develop a common strategy aimed at stimulating investment projects aimed at combating climate change and preserving biodiversity. It was clear that civil society and international organisations have spent years of effort and meetings and are still not getting the support and investment needed from the global North. In parallel, initiatives could be better aligned, and must be locally owned.


At Proforest, we understand the power of collaboration and multi-stakeholder partnerships, and the importance of inclusion and ownership. No single organisation, company or country can address the interconnected issues of climate, biodiversity, livelihoods, human rights, deforestation and more.


The Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative (ASCI) is a well-established multi-stakeholder partnership of ten countries in West and Central Africa who have defined and committed to principles of responsible production of agricultural commodities, in a way that improves livelihoods and protects natural resources, including forests.


Five of the six countries that the Congo Basin spans are members of the Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Republic of Congo, providing a platform for regional co-ordination and international engagement.


ASCI members, Cameroon and Republic of Congo, have already actively engaged with EU stakeholders on support required to comply with the new deforestation regulation. The dialogue is important as we saw the signing of the EU-Congo Forest Partnership designed to support sustainable value chains aligned to requirements of EUDR.


While there was no strong declaration to come out of the Summit, it did establish the basis for a roadmap of cooperation between the three regions. Key areas such as fair and equitable pricing for carbon credits were tabled, and a will to speak with a unified voice at CoP28.


The scale of the challenge cannot be underestimated. Forests cover a third of our planet, dictate our weather and our health, provide for nature and our people. The Three Basins Summit was an important milestone in ongoing efforts to protect the forests, led by the countries, aligned on goals, challenging the international community.


The guardians of the forests – national governments and local and Indigenous communities – must own and lead solutions on the ground that integrate agricultural commodity production and local livelihoods with forest protection.​


Declaration for the 2nd Summit of the Three Basins (the first was held in 2011) can be found on the Three Basins Summit website.


Louis Defo is Senior Project Manager for Proforest based in the Congo Basin. He supports the Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative, and works on the promotion of sustainability in palm, sugar cane, rubber and cocoa sectors in Central and West Africa.