Deforestation and forest degradation have increased in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) despite the government’s commitment to safeguard its forests. Commercial and industrial-scale activities represent major direct long-term threats to the forests. By contrast, the traditional livelihood strategies of indigenous and local communities show a capacity to coexist with forests sustainably. Land tenure has evolved in the DRC without formal recognition of communities’ customary ownership rights over forest lands they have occupied and used for generations, although traditional practices remain widespread.

Reforms have left governance gaps, inconsistencies and ambiguities in the regulation of commercial and artisanal forest activities, and in safeguarding community rights, that urgently need resolution. This report draws on existing literature on deforestation and forest degradation, and on discussions with forest peoples’ organisations and with other stakeholders, including field consultations in three of the DRC’s most densely forested provinces. The report highlights the many socio-environmental impacts and human rights violations that communities experience in association with forest loss.