Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the highest ranking norm, establishing a strict separation between “laws” and “regulations”. Laws determine general principles and rules in domains explicitly quoted in the Constitution, such as civil or economic rights, property rights, forest management, mining, protection of the environment and energy. Regulations (decrees) establish rules outside of the ‘law’s domain determined by the Constitution.

Article 53 of the constitution stipulates that "Everyone has the right to a healthy environment conducive to his/her full development. He/She has the duty to defend it. The State ensures the protection of the environment and the health of the population."

Featured Legislation

1971: Legislative Order No. 71-016 was enacted, relating to the protection of cultural property.

1988: Law No. 015/88 regulating maritime fishing in the People’s Republic of Congo was issued.  This law constitutes the new basic text in terms of fisheries law. The law only concerns fishing practiced in marine waters under Congolese jurisdiction (arts. 1 and 2). As such, it distinguishes four types of fishing: industrial, artisanal, scientific and amateur fishing (art. 3). The new text lays down the principle that the management of living natural resources found in waters under Congolese jurisdiction is entrusted to the maritime fishing authorities (art. 6). These authorities may be, depending on the case, the minister responsible for maritime fishing, any civil servant or administration designated by the minister, ambassadors and consuls (art. 5). The Minister is given general regulatory power (ss. 7 and 8). The law also establishes a Fisheries Development Fund intended to finance the investments necessary for the management and development of fisheries activities (art. 10). This Fund will itself be financed by taxes on: the transhipment by a foreign vessel of Congolese maritime fishing products; imports of sea fishing products; sanitary inspection of products from fishing and maritime hunting; motorized boats engaged in artisanal sea fishing. The rates and methods of collection of these taxes will be fixed by subsequent laws (art. 11). With regard to the conditions for practicing sea fishing, the law makes all forms of fishing subject to prior authorization (art. 13) in the form of a fishing license.

2000: Law No. 2-2000 on the organization of maritime fishing in the Republic of Congo was ratified. This law constitutes the new basic text in terms of maritime fisheries law. The law concerns only fishing practiced in maritime waters under Congolese jurisdiction (arts. 2 and 3). The following are fishing activities: prior activities having fishing as their direct purpose; subsequent activities carried out directly or immediately on the species caught. The law distinguishes between four types of fishing: industrial, artisanal, scientific and sport fishing. For each type of fishing, the law establishes the conditions and methods of its exercise.

2002: Law 011-2002 was enacted, relating to the Forest Code which deals with clearing and erosion problems.

2002: Law No. 007 was signed, laying down the conditions for the opening up and exploitation of material deposits.

2011: Law No. 11/009 was passed, laying down the principles governing the protection of the environment and the sustainable management of natural resources, to prevent risks, combat all forms of pollution and nuisances, and improve the people’s quality of life.

2011: Law No. 11/022 (Fundamental Agricultural Law) was approved, attempting to support sustainable development; improve agricultural production and provide food self-sufficiency. The purpose of the Law is to promote and increase agricultural production to ensure food security and rural development.

2014: Decree No. 14/019 was approved, guiding the operating rules for procedural mechanisms relating to environmental protection; it also frames the entire procedure for the conduct of an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA).

2014: Law No. 14/003 (Protection of Nature) was brought into force, taking into account the potential value of forest carbon sequestration services for climate change mitigation while elaborating the National Strategy on Protection of Nature and the National Forestry Programme.

2014: The forest policy of the Republic of Congo was tabled. In order to strengthen, revitalize and pursue the sustainable management of its forests, the Republic of Congo has adopted this forest policy (2014-2025), with global and national scope, based on the principles of green economy, participatory management, and forest management based on a partnership of the public and private sectors.

2016: The National REDD+ Strategy of the Republic of Congo was unveiled. The Vision of the Republic of Congo for REDD+ is as follows: “By 2030, the diversification of the economy of the Republic of Congo, obeying the standards and principles of conservation and sustainable management of ecosystems, participatory management and the fight against poverty, is effective through the emergence of a green economy. The strategic and technical tools of the REDD+ process are put in place and are operational for the greater good of the national and international community”. To achieve this vision, the national REDD+ strategy of the Republic of Congo is articulated around five (5) strategic axes, in particular the strengthening of governance and sustainable financing (Strategic axis 1); sustainable management and development of forest resources (Strategic axis 2); improving agricultural systems (Strategic axis 3); the rationalization of the production and use of wood energy (Strategic axis 4); and the development of a green mining sector (Strategic axis 5).

2018: Law No. 18/001 amended Law No. 007, relating to the Mining Code and the Mining Regulations.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • In April 2021, UNODC’s Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime hosted an inter-ministerial meeting with the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), creating synergies among national agencies addressing the trafficking of natural resources in the DRC. The four-day event featured 240 high-level representatives from the Ministries of Justice, Environment, Defense, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Finance, as well as representatives from law enforcement and judicial agencies. The meeting is an attempt to address organized criminal groups responsible for wildlife and forest crime. These criminal organizations destroy ecosystems and make a profit from natural resources that should be benefiting local communities. All those involved in the meeting agreed that reforms to the criminal procedure code should be made, along with amendments to the national legislation on money laundering, and greater provisions of additional capacity building and technical assistance to magistrates and investigators.
  • A 2017 report reveals that 10-30 percent of the illegal trade of flora and fauna (around US$ 72-426 million per annum) goes to transnational organized criminal networks based outside eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Fuelling the conflict in eastern DRC, the illegal trade has been tied to political insurgency, illegal operations conducted by militarized criminal groups and large-scale smuggling and laundering of natural resources. Gold, minerals, timber, charcoal and wildlife products such as ivory are smuggled illegally out of conflict zones and surrounding areas in eastern DRC and there is evidence that the revenues earned from such operations have financed at least 25 armed groups that have destabilized the peace and security of eastern DRC. What is needed, according to INTERPOL, is international, regional and national commitments which require building capacity among local and national law enforcement, building consumer awareness and enhancing international cooperation and intelligence gathering across the supply chain.

References and Further Reading


Secretaire Général a l’Environnement et Développement Durable, Monsieur Benjamin Toirambe Bamoninga: