His Excellency Visited the RRI Secretariat on 26 March 2015 

The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) was honored to welcome His Excellency Dieudonné BOLENGETENGE BALEA, Minister of Land Affairs for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and his cabinet members at the Washington, D.C. Secretariat on Thursday, March 26th. This courtesy visit recognized RRI’s support for the national civil society platform on tenure, Cadre de Concertation (CACO), and its role in informing the country’s land reform process.

The Minister emphasized the importance of cooperation between the state and civil society organizations in securing the land rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, women, and other minorities. His Excellency worked in the civil society sector for 20 years before joining the political arena and has a deep appreciation of its contributions and concerns. “What preoccupies you also preoccupies me,” said the Minister, referring to civil society organizations.

RRI has been engaged with civil society organizations in the DRC since the land reform process launched in 2012, and was instrumental in the establishment of CACO in 2013. RRI also initiated a DRC Tenure Baseline Study (TBS) to help promote a rights-based agenda in the country’s land and forest sectors. The results of the TBS are being finalized and will be used to inform the government’s land reform roadmap and relevant civil society’s advocacy strategy.

The meeting also highlighted the importance of other processes, such as land use planning, REDD+, and private sector engagement. RRI’s President, Andy White, emphasized that REDD+ should help fund the land reform process in the DRC and shared lessons from RRI’s extensive experience promoting land tenure reform in China, Brazil, Mexico, and Indonesia. He noted that “recently, the private sector has begun to prefer investing in areas where communities and Indigenous Peoples’ land rights are secure and recognized, as this reduces financial risk.”

RRI’s engagement is an important opportunity for the legal recognition of community rights and customary tenure in the ongoing land reform process.

RRI Collaborators from Senegal and Cameroon, two other countries who are also going through similar land and forest tenure reform processes, were also present at the meeting, which was moderated by Solange Bandiaky-Badji, RRI’s Regional Program Director for Africa.