The Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP)Ollie P. Anderson, Jr., Consultant, Office of Central African Affairs
Remarks to Symposium on the Role of Ecotourism
February 21, 2003
Assistant Secretary Turner, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is an honor for me to be with you today to express, on behalf of Assistant Secretary Walter Kanstenier, who is traveling in Africa and Europe, the thanks and appreciation of the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State for the leadership and vision you have shown in the inception and implementation of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP).
We are very excited about the potential impact a program of this nature and magnitude could have upon economic growth and development in the region. We know that ecotourism is an engine of economic growth and sustainable development, and we believe that a true partnership between all the parties -- cooperation and collaboration among our various agencies as well as among our overseas partners -- is absolutely essential to the success of this initiative. You all know that A/S Kansteiner traveled to the region with A/S Turner last fall and he has expressed his full support of this initiative.
While visiting Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet the members of the Needs Assessment Team in Brazzaville just before they set out on their adventure into the Congo Basin. I was encouraged and impressed to learn that the team shared many of the insights and concerns that some of the Congolese and Gabonese officials had expressed to me during my visit.
One official expressed a desire for closer consultation and dialogue on matters that would directly impact the response capabilities of his government. Despite the obvious health and security concerns that could limit tourism, he was excited about the prospects and possibilities of the program, and felt that his contributions to the planning process would inform and facilitate the process of implementation.
While also expressing enthusiasm and support for the CBFP, several other officials observed that, to be successful, the initiative must show as much concern for the welfare of people as it does for the conservation and preservation of the environment and wildlife. They pointed out, for example, that if certain wildlife were not to be hunted and eaten as bush meat, then alternatives sources of protein would need to be provided. It was encouraging for me to note in conversation with team members that these very pragmatic and realistic concerns were already being factored into the CBFP equation.
Again, I am very delighted to be here, and we, in the Bureau of African Affairs, look forward to your deliberations and findings. Thank you so very much.