NEW YORK (Sept. 20, 2023) -- The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) are working with Indigenous Peoples and local communities to launch the first-ever direct access fund for Indigenous Peoples and local communities to protect forests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This major new funding and linked technical assistance facility will help secure land and resource rights and protect one of the most important tropical rainforests in the world.  

With significant seed funding from the Bezos Earth Fund, the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative, and the UK government’s Forest Governance, Markets and Climate program, the new Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IP & LC) Forest Facility will empower these groups to play a leading role in securing, protecting, and managing the forests they depend upon. Two of the main Indigenous and local forest community networks, the Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autochtones (DGPA), and the Réseau des Populations Autochtones et Locales pour la Gestion Durable des Ecosystèmes Forestiers (REPALEF), are active collaborators in the initiative, along with other members of Congolese civil society.

The new facility will be featured at a public event on Sept. 22, 2023, during New York Climate Week. 

DRC holds about two-thirds of the forest in the Congo Basin, which is the second-largest rainforest region after the Amazon. DRC’s forests are under growing threat. Although the great majority are under customary management, few of the communities involved have received formal legal documentation, and even fewer receive support for protection, management, or sustainable development activities.  

Indigenous Peoples and local communities are some of the world’s best forest protectors, and the climate, biodiversity, and sustainable development benefits from their forest management are very large and highly cost-efficient. Yet these groups only receive a fraction of funding for climate and biodiversity protection. To help address that gap, the new facility will channel funds directly to local groups, provide services to IP & LC groups to strengthen their capacity, and ensure they have autonomy to apply the funds to deliver both forest conservation and social benefits. 

Initial implementation of the facility, testing the approach, and developing robust procedures will be conducted in two regions of DRC. The aim is to then expand to reach national scale.  

The facility will help enable the achievement of major policy commitments that the government of DRC has made to expand community forestry and community participation in protected area management. In July 2022, a historic law for the protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights was also announced by President Félix Tshisekedi — a major landmark for the respect and promotion of Indigenous People’s rights and for the recognition of their role in protecting the country’s rainforest and biodiversity. Further, the facility will help DRC meet its goals under the Paris Climate Agreement and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.  

Jean-Paul Kibambe, Country Program Director for WCS DRC, and Sushil Raj, Executive Director for Rights and Communities at WCS, issued this joint statement: “The creation of this facility demonstrates our commitment to facilitating funding opportunities for Indigenous Peoples and local communities by respecting their values and role in protecting forests of the Congo Basin. Communities play a central role in protecting high integrity ecosystems and in turn high integrity ecosystems are essential to community wellbeing as their customs, traditions, livelihoods, and tenure systems are deeply interwoven with these forests of the DRC.” 

Patrick Saïdi, National Coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples’ network Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autochtones (DGPA), issued this statement: “This is a financial mechanism we have been reflecting upon since the COP in Glasgow, and we are happy to finally see it come to life. Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities' traditional practices and knowledge have always played a central role in conservation efforts. Making direct funding available to IPs & LCs will not only consolidate conservation efforts, it will enhance local development in a way collectively determined by the communities themselves.” 

Keddy Bosulu, National Coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples’ network Réseau des Populations Autochtones et Locales pour la Gestion Durable des Ecosystèmes Forestiers (REPALEF), issued this statement: “We have now initiated the pilot phase of the IP & LC Forest Facility. It is very innovative in the context of DRC, we therefore expect to test and learn from the pilot places and, with sufficient support, progressively extend the initiative to the entire country.” 

Tørris Jaeger, RFN’s Executive Director, issued this statement: “There is an urgent need to scale up forest protection led by Indigenous and local forest communities and channel funds directly into the hands of grassroots groups who often know best how to sustainably manage the forest. Not only to increase Indigenous and local community participation in the management of funds, but because their empowerment is the most cost-effective way to achieve forest protection and local development. RFN is proud to support Indigenous and local communities setting up a facility that they play a central role in steering.” 

Rainforest Foundation Norway

Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) has a 30-year history of prioritizing direct support to Indigenous, environmental, and rights-based organizations throughout the Amazon, the Congo Basin, Asia, and Oceania. Providing core funding, financing multi-year projects, developing joint strategies, and systematically building the capacity of Indigenous organizations to spearhead the fight to protect their forests, RFN has fostered a vibrant network of 65 long-term partner organizations in seven major rainforest countries hosting 70 percent of the remaining tropical rainforest on Earth, and 79 percent of the world’s intact rainforest. Learn more about RFN here. Media contact: Kristin Rødland,, +47 45656277.

The concept for the facility was initially developed by the Forests for Life partnership.