The Congo Basin Forest PartnershipJeffry Burnam, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment , Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Opening Remarks at Ecotourism Symposium
February 20, 2003
Thank you all for coming. I appreciate the attendance of representatives from the embassies, entrepreneurs interested in the Congo Basin area, NGOs with projects in the area, and experts on ecotourism.
I would like to speak briefly about the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, which is the impetus for our discussion here today. The Congo Basin Forest Partnership was launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development by Secretary of State Colin Powell to promote economic development and alleviate poverty through natural resource conservation programs. This Partnership of governments, international organizations, and civil society recognizes the importance of the integration of economic development, social development and environmental protection.
The forest and wildlife of the Congo Basin are of global significance. They are a major factor in the social, economic and environmental health of the Congo Basin country partners. To assist in the conservation and sustainable use of these precious assets, the Partnership can build on an impressive structure of cooperation between governments, NGOs and the private sector already operating in the region.
It has been inspiring to see the strong support and commitment to the Partnership given by the forest and environmental ministers of the countries in the region: Cameroon, The Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo. They have built on the foundation of the Yaounde Declaration of 1999 and set in motion plans to combat illegal logging and illegal poaching of wildlife, broadened application of sustainable forest management strategies, and created new forest protected areas to an increase of millions of hectares. The Congo Basin Forest Partnership also builds upon existing programs in the region that have already achieved important results. These were developed through the work of the Congo Basin governments and international conservation and assistance organizations. New industry and professional association partners will bring their technical expertise and financial resources to the Parnership’s efforts in sustainable development of the Congo Basin.
In recent trips to the Congo Basin I had the opportunity to see the great asset the national parks and nature reserves can be to the surrounding communities. Ministers of African Congo Basin countries expressed a strong interest in ecotourism as an economic stimulus as well as a means of forest conservation.
Secretary Powell was the inspiration for our meeting today by visiting Gabon as an ecotourist immediately after the announcement of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership.
Again, welcome, I look forward to today’s presentations and discussions.