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Review of Policies for Biodiversity Informatics in Central Africa: Case Studies of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Gabon


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Biodiversity informatics is an emerging discipline which deals with the collection, collation, analysis, prediction, and dissemination of data and information related to the earth's biotic resources. This article is a review of the policy and legislation instruments relevant to biodiversity informatics, grouped in four categories, (i) mobilizing biodiversity data, (ii) standards, protocols, and tools, (iii) informatics infrastructure-building initiatives, and (iv) capacity-building, outreach and open access initiatives. A meta-analysis of 705 documents on policies, legislations and papers about biodiversity data management in Central Africa (Case studies of DRC and Gabon) was conducted. A number of search engines were used to find policies, legislation and articles relevant to this review. Results showed that although significant efforts have been invested in developing policies, the enactment of biodiversity-related legislation and establishing institutions is still weak. Successful implementation and enforcement of policies is greatly impeded by several factors which, in turn, constitute challenges to biodiversity data management. Weaknesses in institutional frameworks are characterized, among other factors, by poor coordination, inadequate funding of biodiversity protection, corruption and jurisdictional conflicts. Findings from this review suggest that the governments of DRC and Gabon need to take urgent action to reform flawed biodiversity-related policy and legal instruments, ensure their effective enforcement and strengthen the institutions in charge of biodiversity conservation.
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Working Paper 3, Centre for Global Development, University of
Review of policies for biodiversity informatics in Central
Africa: Case studies of the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC) and Gabon
Aimé Tsinda, Pamela Abbott and Roger Mugisha
Review of policies for biodiversity informatics in Central
Africa: Case studies of the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC) and Gabon
Published by the Centre for global Development, University of Aberdeen, January 2018
Copyright © 2018 Aimé Tsinda, Pamela Abbott and Roger Mugisha
The right of Aimé Tsinda, Pamela Abbott and Roger Mugisha to be identified as the authors of this
work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988
All rights reserved
About the authors:
Dr.Aimé Tsinda is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research-
Rwanda (IPAR) and also a Lecturer in Urban Planning and Environmental Geography at the
University of Rwanda. Email:; Tel: +250 788305960.
Professor Pamela Abbott is Director of the Centre for Global Development and Professor in the
School of Education, University of Aberdeen, UK. Email:
Mr. Roger Mugisha is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research-
Rwanda (IPAR).
This article draws on a research carried out as part of a project that aims to review policies
that promote biodiversity informatics in Sub-Saharan Africa. This project is being funded by
JRS Biodiversity Foundation and is being carried out by the Institute of Policy Analysis and
Research (IPAR-Rwanda). Therefore, the authors would like to thank Dr Don S. Doering, the
Executive Director of JRS Biodiversity Foundation and his team for their invaluable support.
Biodiversity informatics is an emerging discipline which deals with the collection, collation,
analysis, prediction, and dissemination of data and information related to the earth’s biotic
resources. This article is a review of the policy and legislation instruments relevant to
biodiversity informatics, grouped in four categories, (i) mobilizing biodiversity data, (ii)
standards, protocols, and tools, (iii) informatics infrastructure-building initiatives, and (iv)
capacity-building, outreach and open access initiatives. A meta-analysis of 705 documents on
policies, legislations and papers about biodiversity data management in Central Africa (Case
studies of DRC and Gabon) was conducted. A number of search engines were used to find
policies, legislation and articles relevant to this review. Results showed that although
significant efforts have been invested in developing policies, the enactment of biodiversity-
related legislation and establishing institutions is still weak. Successful implementation and
enforcement of policies is greatly impeded by several factors which, in turn, constitute
challenges to biodiversity data management. Weaknesses in institutional frameworks are
characterized, among other factors, by poor coordination, inadequate funding of biodiversity
protection, corruption and jurisdictional conflicts. Findings from this review suggest that the
governments of DRC and Gabon need to take urgent action to reform flawed biodiversity-
related policy and legal instruments, ensure their effective enforcement and strengthen the
institutions in charge of biodiversity conservation.
Keywords: biodiversity, informatics, policy, DRC, Gabon
1. Introduction
Effective strategies for addressing biodiversity loss and progressing biodiversity science,
require that biodiversity-relevant information is successfully managed. Efficient access to
data about biodiversity is essential for effective conservation and sustainable use [1].
Unfortunately, data regarding biodiversity remain scattered between different organizations
and individuals, making it difficult to access it easily and efficiently [2-5]. Biodiversity
information is critical to a wide range of scientific, educational and governmental uses and is
essential to decision-making in many realms [2]. This growing realization has resulted in the
emergence of a new discipline, Biodiversity Informatics.
Biodiversity informatics is an emerging discipline which deals with the collection, collation,
analysis, prediction, and dissemination of data and information related to the earth’s biotic
resources. It draws upon a number of disciplines, including systematics, ecology, and
computer science. The discipline of biodiversity informatics encourages the development of
new tools, services and standards for access to data, data management, modeling, and data
integration [6]. The review of the global progress made in the field of biodiversity informatics
can be focused on four categories, (i) mobilizing biodiversity data, (ii) standards, protocols,
and tools, (iii) informatics infrastructure-building initiatives, and (iv) capacity-building,
outreach, and open access initiatives.
First, there have been a number of initiatives undertaken in different parts of the world to
mobilize biodiversity data [7], but these often focus on high-income countries and relatively
little is known about biodiversity in low-income countries.
Second, several initiatives are engaged in the development of (1) standards and protocols, (2)
collection management tools, (3) geo-referencing and mapping tools, (4) data cleaning tools,
(5) modeling tools and (6) web services and computational frameworks, but these standards,
laws and policies are non-existent in some countries and those that do exist present gaps in
terms of biodiversity data management.
Third, efforts are being made to build informatics infrastructure with exponential
technological capacities, computational power, storage capacity, and analytical ability. Since
1990, several global, regional, national, and project initiatives directly or indirectly
contributed to developing informatics infrastructure. However, this development is not
equally distributed across the globe, and Central Africa countries, like other low-income
countries, are still lagging behind.
Fourth, efficient exchange of information has been recognized as one of the necessary
preconditions for improvement of global biodiversity conservation [8]. However, much of the
existing primary biodiversity information is neither accessible nor discoverable [9, 10].
Many regions and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are endowed with rich biodiversity that
contributes through provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting ecosystem services to
many constituents of human wellbeing, including security, basic material for a good life,
health, good social relations, and freedom of choice and action [11]. DRC and Gabon are
among the countries in Central Africa which are exceptionally rich in biodiversity. DRC, the
second-largest country in Africa, harbors a variety of ecosystems: including nearly half the
African rainforests, forest-savannah ecotones, and savannahs, afro-mountainous forests, large
and small lakes, rivers and swampy forests [12]. However, the insecurity and changes in the
political system since the 1990s affected conservation activities and strategies [13]. Gabon is
a heavily forested country (80 per cent of its territory is covered by forests) [14] and is also
home to an animal population the size of which makes it of international importance [15].
Despite many studies that have been conducted on strategies to manage biodiversity data, there
is a scarcity of literature on the policy and legislative instruments pertaining to its management.
In the absence of such literature, it becomes difficult to find a basis upon which policy and
regulatory frameworks can be improved. Notwithstanding that DRC and Gabon have ratified
major international environmental agreements in the field of biodiversity protection and put in
place policies and legislation to manage and regulate biodiversity data, their effectiveness
remains questioned, particularly in the absence of effective information systems for policy
development and implementation. This is happening in the era of extreme climate change
events, accelerated loss of biodiversity and threat of species extinction; there is a growing
concern about DRC’s and Gabon’s use of legal instruments in addressing the problem [16-
18].This necessitates, among other efforts, a review of the policy and regulatory frameworks of
DRC and Gabon relevant to biodiversity data management in order to understand the
fundamental challenges and offer recommendations for improvement.
2. Methods and Data
2.1. Study areas
This study focuses on the Central Africa region, and the countries purposively selected are
DRC and Gabon. Both countries are located in the region and are members of the Economic
Community of Central African States (ECCAS). The two countries are unique in terms of
biodiversity richness. DRC contains an estimated 10,000 species of plants, 409 species of
mammals, 1,117 species of birds and 400 species of fish, making it the 5th most biodiverse
country on the earth [19, 20]. DRC’s forests cover an area of 2 million square kilometers, of
which roughly half are closed high rainforests and the remainder open forests and woody
savannah. Designated parks and conservation areas occupy around 18 million hectares,
representing 8% of the national territory, though most of these exist only on paper. The DRC
has three Ramsar sites, including the world’s largest one, the 25,365 square mile Nigiri and
Lac MaïNdombe/Basin wetland.
Gabon's forests are also amongst the richest in Africa in terms of botanical diversity and
endemism. For example, 22% of plants described in the Flora of Gabon are endemic and the
forests of Gabon have more plant species (estimated at 8000 species) than all the forests of
West Africa combined [21-23]. The fauna is also rich, estimated at more than 190 mammal
species, including at least 20 species of monkeys, more than 600 species of birds, 70 species
of reptiles and 100 species of amphibians. About 35,000 gorillas and 64,000 chimpanzees are
found in Gabon’s forests and the number of elephants varies between 60,000 and 74,000 [24].
DRC and Gabon have a Presidential System of government. While DRC is a fragile state,
Gabon is relatively stable within the Central African region. Another indicator of good
governance is the World Bank's assessment which clearly shows that both countries score
lower than others in the region in terms of control of corruption and government
effectiveness; DRC scores very poorly on control of corruption and has significantly lower
scores than Gabon for government effectiveness. These scores have implications in terms of
policy making and effective regulatory frameworks, especially those related to biodiversity.
Table 1 presents a summary of key characteristics for these two countries.
Table 1: Key characteristics of case study countries
Governance system
Presidential system of
Presidential system of
2,344,860 km²
267,677 km²
Total population
74.88 million (2014)
1.688 million (2014)
33 inhabitants/ km² (2014)
7 inhabitants/ km² (2014)
Forest cover
860, 000 km² covered by
Around 205,000 km² and repre-
sents 80% of the land area
GDP (current US$)
$32.96 billion (2014)
$17.23 billion (2014)
Government effectiveness1
4.33 (2014)
26. 44 (2014)
Control of corruption2
6.73 (2014)
30.29 (2014)
Source: [21, 22, 25, 26]
(Percentile rank ranging from 0 (lowest) to 100 (highest) rank)
Percentile rank ranging from 0 (lowest) to 100 (highest) rank)
2.2. Data collection
In the first stage of the review a search was carried out for a representative sample of the wide
range of sources on biodiversity informatics, followed by a search of relevant sources, which
entailed focusing on literature on biodiversity data management. In addition to searching for
academic articles a large volume of material was gathered from the respective governments
In this regard, the websites of the following key institutions were extensively searched in
DRC: Observatoire des forêts d’Afrique Centrale (FORAC), Ministry of Environment, Nature
Conservation and Tourism (MENCT), Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (l’Institut
Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature-ICCN), and Department in Charge of the
Protection of the Mining Environment, Ministry of Mines, and National Service for
Development of Fisheries, the National Centre of Information on Environment. In Gabon, the
website of following institutions were consulted: Ministry of Forestry, Environment and
Protection of Natural Resources, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock , Directorate of Fauna
and Protected Areas (Direction Générale de la Faune et des Aires Protégées), National
Agency for National Parks (Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux).
The documents reviewed for this study included published documents, policy statements,
regulatory and policy documents from relevant institutions (for example laws, government
decrees, orders, and policy documents, etc.), consultancy reports, peer-reviewed journals,
conference proceedings, grey literature, technical reports, and project documents.
The literature that was reviewed was systematically selected from the internet using search
engines. The search terms used separately or in combination included biodiversity data
management or Gestion de la biodiversité”, biodiversity conservation in DRC or
conservation de la biodiversité en RDC”, “biodiversity conservation in Gabon or
conservation de la biodiversité au Gabon”, and effectiveness of policies in DRC and
Gabon”, implementation of policies in DRC and Gabon or Mise en œuvre des politiques au
Gabon et en RDC”. The web search resulted in 705 journal articles, books, technical papers,
policy documents and theses, which are are collectively called “publications” in this article.
All titles of the identified articles were examined and 65 were considered as likely to have
relevant information for review. Full texts of the 65 selected articles were retrieved and
information extracted for review.
2.3. Analytical framework
We analyzed the policies using an analytical framework relevant to biodiversity informatics.
The framework divides discourses into four elements for analysis: 1) Mobilizing Biodiversity
Data; 2) Standards, Protocols, and Tools development; 3) Informatics Infrastructure
development; 4) Capacity Building, Outreach and Open Access Initiatives. We analyzed the
above categories focusing on two key elements: policies and institutional structures analysis
that promote or hinder biodiversity informatics in DRC and Gabon.
Two broad approaches were suggested for documentary analysis: content analysis and context
analysis. While content analysis focuses on the document itself, context analysis views the
document as a reflection of the wider contextual environment pertaining to the research area
[27]. Both approaches were used, but the content analysis was the main tool used in article.
Content analysis looks for the presence of concepts in a text, condensing many potential
concepts into fewer broad categories, as a means of discovering patterns in the analyzed
media, and thus better understanding the underlying phenomena [28]. The effectiveness of
policies was analyzed through the analysis of available peer-reviewed articles, policy briefs
and working papers which reported on whether policy objectives stated in the policy
documents were being achieved.
2.4. Thematic data analysis
This is a method for identifying and reporting patterns within a qualitative data set, was guid-
ed by framework [29], particularly the first four levels. This includes: 1) Familiarization with
the data; 2) Identifying a thematic framework (coding to reflect the aims of the study and
what is emerging from the data); 3) Indexing and Charting (re-arranging data by index - for
example, tabular presentation of themes in columns, cases in rows, summaries in cells); 4)
Mapping and Interpretation (revising charts to look for patterns and associations in the data,
developing explanations, mapping the range of phenomena).
2.5. Limitations of the study and mitigation measures
First, although research has been carried out on biodiversity data management in the last
decade, there is no documented research focusing on policies pertaining to biodiversity
informatics and, worse, there has been little research to date in Central Africa [30]. Some of
the studies that are available are not documented in the mainstream publication outlets, the
majority are not updated, and some are not in English (e.g. in French), so that we had to
translate them.
A second limitation concerns issues of access and availability of documents which imply that
we might not cover all policies. Also, the scope did not include a deep assessment of the
implementation of current policies and interviews with key stakeholders, because of time and
resource constraints. In a bid to overcome the challenge of personally engaging with key
stakeholders, relevant published government documents were obtained from various agencies
through their websites. Hence the selected policies and laws which became the samples for
this analysis are those which could be obtained online.
3. Results
3.1. Institutional framework
3.1.1. DRC
The institutional framework plays a crucial role in biodiversity conservation. In DRC, under
the 2006 Constitution, the Government has a responsibility to exercise the management and
conservation of environment and biodiversity throughout the country. This includes the power
to regulate ministries and provinces. A number of ministries are involved and share
responsibility [31]. The Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism
(MENCT) has the leading role [32]. The Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Rural
Development and the Ministry of Mines, all play environmental and biodiversity roles.
However, the core of the problem lies in the presidential order No. 07/018 of 16 May 2007.
This order gave authority for the management of environmental impact assessment (EIA) to
the then Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation, Water and Forests (now known
as MENCT), while in the same ordinance the President gave responsibility for all matters
relating to mines, including environmental issues, to the Ministry of Mines, specifically to the
Director of the Department for the Protection of the Mining Environment (Direction chargée
de la Protection de l’Environnement Minier - DPEM). This situation has created a conflict
between the two Ministries; the former has general competence in the environmental sector,
the latter has limited competence relating to the environment (including biodiversity) in the
mining sector, and the two ministries have different mandates for the protection and
exploitation of natural resources.
In DRC there are also other relevant bodies, such as the Congolese Institute for the
Conservation of Nature (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature - ICCN) [33],
the National Service for Development of Fisheries and the National Centre of Information on
[34], as well the Institute of Natural Parks of Congo, created by Royal Decree of
26 November 1934, while other areas were protected to avoid the widespread destruction of
biodiversity [35].
The Parliamentary Commission for the Environment and Natural Resources is another
potential organ of the state. This commission has between 50 and 60 members who are
organized into four committees: general environment, mining environment, flora and fauna,
and environmental control. One of the aims of the Commission is to approve sector laws and
policies. However, it does not have the expertise and knowledge to evaluate such laws and
policies properly. There is little intersectoral coordination or synergy in policy and law
development, sometimes resulting in conflicting policy objectives and legal requirements
3.1.2. Gabon
In Gabon, in accordance with the Constitution, the responsibility for biodiversity conservation
is shared between two main ministries: the Ministry of Forestry, Environment and Protection
of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. The Ministry of Forestry,
the Environment and Protection of Natural Resources (Ministère de la Forêt, de
l'Environnement et de la Protection des Ressources Naturelles) is, through the Directorate of
Fauna and Protected Areas (Direction Générale de la Faune et des Aires Protégées) and the
National Agency for National Parks (Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux), the
institutional body responsible for negotiating international environmental agreements and
ensures that they are implemented. It is in charge of development, implementation and review
of Gabon’s forest and wildlife policy. It is also responsible for sustainable forest management,
monitoring implementation of regeneration programmes, afforestation, reforestation, and
inventory and issuing of permits for wildlife exploitation. There are also provincial units
Created since 1998, the National Environment Information Centre has as a main
objective of gathering, spreading and facilitating the information flow aimed at the
environmental protection by appropriate means
assigned to carry out local monitoring and evaluation activities. The Ministry has also set up
various brigades around the country to assist with enforcement. However, it is difficult to
figure out how the Ministry shares this responsibility with the Directorate of Fauna and
Protected Areas and the National Agency for National Parks. Although their creation is
important, roles and responsibilities for each should be clarified. It is also necessary to
introduce specific legislation concerning conservation.
3.2. Biodiversity-related international agreements
DRC and Gabon have ratified international environmental agreements essential for addressing
the problem of biodiversity data management. These include
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), agreed in Rio in June 199, and ratified
on 15 September 1994 (DRC),
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Convention on Migratory Species (CMS),
Ramsar, the Convention on the Protection of Important Wetlands,
Convention to Combat Desertification or Land Degradation,
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn
Convention) (2000),
Convention on the Sustainable Management of Lake Tanganyika,
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and
UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol.
They have also ratified regional agreements such as the African Convention on the
Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and the Treaty on the Conservation and
Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa region.
DRC’s constitution stipulates that all ratified international treaties and agreements take
precedence over national laws (on condition that the parties to the treaties or convention apply
them) [37]. However, it is distressing and depressing to note that almost all environmental
agreements ratified by the DRC have not been followed up with legislation in the national
legal system to define the proper measures for their application [38]. Furthermore, the country
does not respect its international commitments in terms of implementing the targets set [39,
40]. Opportunities for their implementation and enforcement are therefore less likely to
Gabon ratified CBD on 14 March 1997 and it has taken some actions geared towards realizing
its objectives. As stated in the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP)
which was developed in 1999 and officially validated in 2000 in accordance with Art. 6 of the
CBD, by ratifying the Convention, Gabon recognized that its implementation could halt and
even reverse the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems for the benefit of the
country and the world [41]. Given that the 2000 NBSAP is old, it is difficult to know if the
national targets for biodiversity conservation which are defined in line with the Biodiversity
Aichi Targets of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity have been attained. Therefore, regular
monitoring and evaluation are needed.
3.3. Relevant legislation and policy instruments
3.3.1. DRC
Several legislative instruments govern the management, use and control of DRC’s tropical
forest and biodiversity data. There is no clear evidence that DRC has enacted a specific law
on biodiversity data management. However, the obligation to implement the CBD has added
greater impetus to enacting and applying national laws related to biodiversity. Some of the
most relevant pieces of legislation related to biodiversity conservation include: the 2002
Forest Code; the 2002 Mining Code; the Decree on Hunting; Order No. 69-041 of 22 August
1969 on the Conservation of Nature; the DRC Constitution; the Environmental Protection
Act; order No. 11/009 of 9 July 2011; and Ministerial Order n°78-211 of May 5, 1978,
establishing the National Institute for Agronomic Study and Research (INERA).
Under the Ministerial Order n°78-211 of May 5, 1978, the National Institute for Agronomic
Study and Research (INERA) was tasked to gather data on national biodiversity [42]. Since
then a large amount of work has been conducted by Belgian scientists on the flora and fauna.
Large numbers of specimens have been collected, especially from areas accessible by the
research centers, and have been lodged in museums in Belgium, most often with duplicate
specimens at the research centers. The field stations and museum collections still exist but are
in very poor condition. In line with worldwide museum policy, the collection data from these
specimens is being put online, sometimes with photographs of the specimens. These
specimens form the basis for a biological inventory of DRC. Large numbers of scientific
publications have been produced, together with comprehensive inventory projects such as the
series known as the Flore d’Afrique Centrale (DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi). However, DRC
is now facing shortages of up-to-date information pertaining to tropical forest and biodiversity
conservation and management, although the use of remote sensing technology to monitor
forest cover, area, and change has been very effective. The deficit is largely due to the poor
condition of field stations and museum collections [43].
Law No. 082-002 of 28 May 1982, which regulates the hunting of certain species under total
protection status, provides that DRC’s biodiversity shall be sustainably managed and used,
especially through an inventory of existing species and particularly those that are endangered,
management plans for species, preservation of species’ habitat and a system for the control of
access to genetic resources. Together with this law, there is an Order, No. 69-041 of 22
August 1969 on the Conservation of Nature, which sets out the framework for improved
conservation of wildlife.
Biodiversity data are also gathered through various treaties and royal decrees. The Institute of
Natural Parks of Congo was created by Royal Decree on 26 November 1934, while other
parks were protected to avoid the widespread destruction of biodiversity [35]. The Forestry
Code (Law n°011-2002 of August 29, 2002) defines the regime applicable to the
conservation, exploitation and rational management of the forest resources throughout the
national territory [44] and presents the aim of the forestry regime as follows:
The forestry regime aims to promote a sustainable rational data management of the
forest resources to increase their contribution to the economic, social and cultural
development of present generations and to preserve the forest ecosystem and bio-
diversity for the benefit of future generations (Article 2).
Articles 3, 24, 34, 46, 49, 50 and 72 of the Forest Code provide that biodiversity conservation
through protection of the fauna and flora and the creation and management of natural reserves
and national parks shall be governed by the laws and regulations in force. They also set out
provisions relating to the protection of biodiversity and natural habitat, forest research,
transformation and trade of forest products, protection of forest species and the conditions for
introducing forest plant material onto the national territory. Similarly, the DRC Constitution
of 18 February 2006 embodies important clauses dealing with the environment and
biodiversity and the rights related to the environment:
Every person has the right to a healthy environment, one which is favorable to their
integral development’; he has a duty to provide for its defense. The State provides for
the protection of the environment and the population’s health’ (Article 15).
However, the legislation does not explicitly call for biodiversity data mobilization, which has
effects on the laws that have been enacted after it. For example, the Environmental Protection
Act No. 11/009 of 9 July 2011 sets out the fundamental principles relating to the protection of
the environment, the institutional framework and the principle of access to information and
the participation of the public in decision-making on environmental matters [45], but there is
no single paragraph on mobilizing biodiversity data.
With respect to capacity building, outreach activities and open access, Law No. 69-041(1969)
highlights the need to train, inform and involve local communities living in and/or around
parks in conservation matters with the assistance of the competent authority, public bodies
and Non-Governmental Organizations [46]. The Great Ape Conservation Action Plan (2012-
2022) developed a strategy for raising awareness and involving the population in
conservation, with activities to implement a public awareness program and recruit and train
public awareness educators [47]. This action plan also developed a strategy to put a
standardized system in place for collecting data on illegal activities and revitalize SYGIAP
the (Protected Area Information Management System) with equipment, training and
development of a database related to biodiversity and mines. The NBI Environmental and
Social Policy states that the body of knowledge shall be accessible to inform decision making
in the basin and transferred to other countries and across the Nile Basin [48]. However, DRC
does not have specific laws pertaining to public access to information. The absence of such a
law means that there is no obligation on the part of public or private bodies to give to any
person biodiversity information required to take a decision or to enable the populace to
exercise the right to healthy environment.
3.3.2. Gabon
Since 1960, the protection of the environment and the management of biodiversity have been
enriched in laws and policy instruments. In 1961, a Forest Act came into effect with the main
aim for managing timber. This was followed by a Forest Regulation with special provision in
1967 which gave more power to the forest bureaucracy. After a decade, the government
realized the need for people’s participation in forestry and in 1976 the Protected Forest
Regulation came into existence. The forestry sector was governed for a long time by Forestry
Law n° 1/82 du 22 July 1982 (Loi d'orientation en matière des eaux et forêts). This law was
conceived as a broad legislative framework to be implemented through various other legal
instruments, particularly ministerial orders and administrative orders [21]. This did not
happen immediately and the first decrees (or implementation instruments) were published in
1987, followed by the Forest Act of 1993 which gives the legal basis for community
participation through the forest user groups. In order to implement the Forest Act of 1993, a
forest law was approved by the government in 1994 [49].
The General Environmental Law (No. 16/93) of Gabon was designed to provide basic
national principles that would guide national policy in the protection and improvement of the
environment [50]. The law states that conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of Gabon’s
natural resources; the improvement and protection of the living environment and genetic
diversity against all causes of degradation and threats of extinction are of national interest. In
this regard, it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that the country’s biodiversity is
conserved and sustainably used. However, the law does not mention the issue of biodiversity
data management.
The Mining Law is regulated by Act no 05/2000, providing for the Mining Code which
regulates possession, storage, detention, exploitation and research of mineral substances
contained in the soil of Gabon [51], but biodiversity conservation has not explicitly been
considered . It is not surprising, therefore, that the mining sector has frequently clashed with
the biodiversity sector. This inevitably results in competing land-use needs between mining
and conservation [22].
Similarly, in 2001 Gabon updated its Forest Code (Law No 16/01 of 2001) to improve forest
governance and management. The new law is still in effect in 2015. The main goals of the
2001 Forest Code are to foster the sustainable development of forests, the industrialization of
the Gabonese timber sector, the sustainable conservation of natural resources, and greater
local stakeholder involvement in the management of Gabon’s natural resources [52].
All types of forests, whether categorized or not, are to be subject to a management plan.
Such a plan should integrate the protection of ecosystems and conservation of biodiversity,
regularity and sustainability of production, management of natural resources, on-going
inventory of resources, training and research, awareness raising & communication,
information and education of users and of local populations’ (Article 20).
The Gabonese Constitution of 1991 (revised in 1994/1995/1997/2000/2003/2011) calls for the
protection of the country’s natural environment as a core principle of the State (Article 1).
However, significant differences can exist between protection of environment and the
management of biodiversity. For example, the constitution contains no explicit article on
biodiversity data management.
In 2007, a Law (No 003/2007) was passed governing the management of national parks [53].
In article 2 of section 1 the Law aims to promote a policy of protection and durable promotion
of the national parks by environmental information, education and communication.
Furthermore, the Environment Law 007/2014, which repealed Law n°016/93 dated 26
August 1993, was promulgated on 1st August 2014 [54]. Article 4 of Environment Law
n°016/93 states that the Ministry in Charge of Environmental should collect, analyze, operate
and maintain information relating to the environment, its protection, management and
restoration. This was re-articulated in article 26 of Environment Law n°007/2014, which
states that the Ministry in Charge of Environment collects data on natural resources, fauna,
and flora, the state of the environment, air and water in order to supplement the database. The
recognition of the right to information on biodiversity is explicit in Articles 23 and 24 of
Environment Law n°007/2014:
The right to information on environment is provided to all citizens. The state has a
duty to inform the public about the environmental and socio-economic data under its
possession (Article 23)’;
…. Every citizen has the right to have access to information on the environment and
health; implementation of the terms of this law is fixed by laws (Article 24)’.
There are five critical issues that emerge from the legal and policy analysis for both Gabon
and the DRC. These issues are: 1) flawed policies and legislation; 2) weak law enforcement;
3) inadequate implementation of biodiversity-related international treaties, 4) limited capacity
and resources for adequate biodiversity monitoring, 5) the challenge of open access. The next
section builds on the above points as well as recommendations for improvement.
3. Discussions and policy recommendations
3.1. Flawed policies and legislation s
The biodiversity-related policies and legislation contain some fundamental weaknesses which
affect their implementation. To begin with, the environmental laws were for a long time
characterized by generality of language and their implementation is based on a plethora of
enabling decrees which were rarely passed in time. For example, in Gabon, the Law 16/93
(Loi cadre sur la protection de l'environnement) lays out the general legal framework for
environmental issues. The text defines the various natural resources and the actions to
undertake for their sustainable management. Unfortunately, it also states that most of the
concrete implementing measures should be defined in forthcoming decrees (this concerns 40
of the 96 articles). As a result, implementation has been weak because of most of the
implementing decrees have not been introduced.
Moreover, in this law, biodiversity data management is lacking altogether in the text.
Similarly, the 1982 Forestry Law was conceived as a broad legislative framework to be
implemented through various other legal instruments, particularly ministerial orders and
administrative orders. Therefore, the law remained too theoretical to be fully implemented on
the ground [55]. This suggests that there is a need for governments to draft comprehensive
environmental laws and strive to be prompt in passing enabling orders for easy
In DRC, Environmental Protection Act No. 11/009 of 9 July 2011 addresses environmental
and climate change adaptation concerns. However, there is not a single clause on mobilizing
and organizing biodiversity data. This is partly due to the fact that many policies were made
without baseline data and targets. This fragmentary legislation results in poor understanding
and contributes to difficulties in enforcement. Such a situation had been reported earlier in
other countries in East Africa [56], with the authors pointing out that the generality of the
language in some policy documents and bylaws makes it impossible to implement them.
3.2. Weak law enforcement
All biodiversity standard-setting systems depend upon an effective enforcement system to
ensure their relevance and use. The various pieces of legislation not only establish regimes for
management but enforcement measures as well. The need for enforcement is obvious, to
ensure compliance and so that the purposes of legislation are fulfilled. Biodiversity-related
legal instruments exist in DRC and Gabon but fail to legislate for enforcement mechanisms.
In DRC, ministerial control services are poorly equipped (communications, resources for
travel, etc.) to fulfill their mandates to manage biodiversity data. Control officers are poorly
and irregularly paid and the control missions that are undertaken are usually paid for by the
concession owners/operators. In these conditions no real control or law enforcement is
possible [43]. Furthermore, as documented above, ambiguity in legislation and guidelines
leading to unclear wording and procedures in the instructions on how to manage and
encourage environmental policy is considered as a barrier to authorities and stakeholders
explaining the policy process to the public in many countries. Often, legal frameworks which
are inconsistent and overlap often confuse stakeholders and lead to difficulties with
interpretation and practice [57]. In Gabon
, the implementation of policy is not successful
In Gabon, there are two ministries, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research
and the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training. However, it is not
clear whether cyber-infrastructure and capacity building for biodiversity informatics
falls within their mandates
because it is not appropriate for legal enforcement officer to be responsible for advising on
policy and policy enforcement and results in poor enforcement.
3.3. Inadequate implementation of biodiversity-related international treaties
DRC and Gabon have ratified and domesticated biodiversity-related multilateral agreements
even though not to their full extent. The countries have not enacted specific legislation to
implement international biodiversity-related agreements such as the CBD and CITES. The
lack of specific national legislation implementing biodiversity-related multilateral agreements
greatly diminishes the effectiveness of the agreements. It is only through national legislation
that is adequate and effectively and efficiently enforced that biodiversity-related agreements
can achieve their objectives. There is a need for adequate domestic legislative, regulatory and
institutional measures that effectively guide the implementation of biodiversity-related
3.4. Limited capacity and resources for adequate biodiversity monitoring
There is limited capacity for adequate monitoring, implementation and enforcement of
biodiversity-related laws and policies. For instance, in DRC, the intention of the Government
was to develop management plans as required by the 2006 Constitution. However, although
biodiversity management and conservation are clearly covered in the DRC Constitution, the
authorities were not ready to engage with them because of the unstable political situation and
the restructured bureaucratic system. In addition, biodiversity management is perceived as a
low priority by Governments officials. Political instability in some parts of DRC was reported
to have affected successful biodiversity data mobilization because no monitoring was
conducted and in the absence of monitoring it would be difficult to collect data.
Another major challenge is that biodiversity protection responsibilities are spread across
many ministries, and consequently there is bound to be duplication of functions and conflict
of authority. In DRC, this could work only if there were a stable and strong state that has the
means to enforce the law [58] and to ensure that all the implementation decrees (articles 13,
16, 23, 24, 31, 33, 52, 59, 60 and 67) that are indicated in the law are produced and
implemented [59].
Gabon does not have an institution specifically responsible for biodiversity management. The
absence of an overarching body with overall responsibility has resulted in the absence of
coordinated action in matters of the environment. There is therefore a need for the
Government to create one concrete Ministry responsible for biodiversity management, and a
department responsible for data biodiversity issues should be established within this Ministry.
In both countries, it can also be observed that weak implementation has also been largely
attributed to corruption. Extractive industries and natural resources are the sectors most
susceptible to corruption. This is often common among staff in charge of monitoring, which
hinders biodiversity conservation funds from being utilized appropriately. Moreover, a lack of
financial resources has a negative impact on the productivity of employees in terms of the
collection of biodiversity data, the training of people involved in data mobilization and the
monitoring and evaluation programmes [60]. However, it is important to note that availability
of funds does not guarantee that the issues pointed out will be addressed or that biodiversity
conservation will be better managed. A similar study in East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya,
Rwanda and Tanzania) also reported similar findings [56]. This indicates that there is a need
to have enough resources and strong institutions that work together for easy implementation.
3.5. The challenge of open access
A review of policy and legal instruments suggests that in order to derive the maximum benefit
from open access to data the legal issues which impede open access to biodiversity data must
be resolved. The intellectual property legal experts have all argued for the legal issues
surrounding data access and re-use to be resolved through comprehensive policies and
procedures supported by a complete set of principles and guidelines.
From a legal perspective, Governments can legitimately restrict open access to sensitive data
for national security purposes. However, the existence of sensitive data cannot serve as an
excuse for widespread withholding of data [61]. Vast amounts of biodiversity information are
not sensitive, and can be shared to the benefit of all. While the need for open access to such
data and products has been emphasized in Gabonese Environment Law n°007/2014, it is not
mentioned in any policy document in DRC.
It is also important to mention that the so-called protection of national security is not the
sole barrier to open access. Nelson, in his article on open access, argued that one of the main
barriers to data sharing is concern about the quality of the data[62]. This means that giving
open access to policies and laws requires taking data quality into consideration. In most cases,
data are known to be produced by researchers with a wide variety of background and levels of
expertise. Even if the research data were prepared by experts, at each point along the data
production chain a likelihood of errors exists which compromises data quality.
One way to ensure data quality is by submitting data and results to the scrutiny of other
researchers through the peer review system. The peer review system allows the data and
results to be judged for quality by a research community prior to its public dissemination.
Since dissemination of digital data is done by computers with relatively little human
oversight, unfit, inaccurate and erroneous data can be rapidly spread and widely disseminated
to the public. The lack of a legal duty to employ a peer-review system is a gap to be filled in
most regulatory frameworks; its absence requires the data users to weigh the benefits of open
access and re-use of the research data against the risks of obtaining inaccurate or erroneous
data. The call for open data in policies and regulations should therefore go hand in hand with
a call for data of better quality.
4. Conclusion
In conclusion, it is certainly very clear from the evidence presented above that DRC and
Gabon possess significant legal and institutional frameworks for promoting the conservation
and sustainable use of biodiversity; the fundamental problem is ineffectiveness in
implementation and enforcement rather than the content of the legislation.
The framework laws contain provisions on biodiversity protection with emphasis on wildlife,
fishery and forest resources. Several international environmental agreements have also been
ratified by DRC and Gabon. For example, DRC ratified international instruments pertaining
to the environment and biodiversity to cover the legislative vacuum, but their implementation
and enforcement are compromised by mismanagement and bad governance within the country
[39]. The lack of effective implementation and enforcement has also been attributed to the
ineffectiveness incorporation of some aspects of these agreements into domestic laws.
Furthermore, the national environmental policies and pieces of legislation contain weaknesses
which affect their implementation and enforcement. The institutional framework which is
supposed to play a crucial role in the way biodiversity-related legal instruments are
implemented and enforced is weak. There is limited capacity to enforce compliance with the
different laws and regulations in place.
In addition to the recommendations provided above, there is a need to revise flawed
environmental laws and policies as well as strengthen institutional capacity to ensure that the
legal instruments are not only ideas on pieces of paper but tools for practical solutions to the
problem of biodiversity loss. Open access is an important issue, both in terms of facilitating
open access policies and the policies for promoting biodiversity data quality. The biodiversity
data quality implications need to be monitored and potential errors need to be carefully
identified and addressed. We would also suggest that because these laws have been used for
many decades, many of them need to be revised. This is because they do not respond to
existing problems or situations and several related laws and regulations cannot mesh with one
another effectively. Furthermore, there have been huge changes in the technologies for open
access, remote and field data collection, data storage, big data analysis, and data visualization
- not only in data information technology but technologies for imaging, DNA analysis and
mobile technology. These create powerful tools to design, implement and monitor policy that
were not imagined even one decade ago.
In order to conserve and manage their biological resources more effectively, the DRC and
Gabon Governments should also keep in mind their limited institutional capacity to enforce
compliance and consider becoming signatories to the World Trade Organization Agreement
on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, the International Treaty on Plant
Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and the Agreement on the Conservation of
African-Eurasian Migratory Water Birds. If implemented and enforced effectively, the
international environmental agreements (such as CBD and CITES) will contribute
significantly to sustainable forest management and forest biodiversity conservation in DRC
and Gabon. One way to do this is to enact and implement national laws aimed at sustainable
forest management and compliance with international environmental agreements.
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Conservation is in crisis as most wildlife population have declined and wild lands have been degraded by human activities. Common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) have declined by 30% in sub-Saharan Africa and especially more in the Albertine Rift region. The status of hippos in Virunga National Park (NP) requires particular conservation measures as the population has collapsed since the early 1990s and crashed in the early 2000s to <5% of the 1970 population. In order to estimate the current population accurately, this study used a combination of ground, water and aerial counts. Ground counts provide more accurate estimates of hippo numbers, but aerial counts are faster and can survey remote areas that are inaccessible on the ground. The population of hippos in Virunga NP is estimated to be about 1,200 individuals, slightly higher than the previous count in 2005 (887 individuals). However, this apparent increase is probably due to a more comprehensive count in 2009. Hippo numbers remain <5% of the 1970 population size due to poaching and habitat destruction which are identified as the main causes of the decline both from past studies and our surveys of local households. The distribution of hippos in Virunga NP has also changed. In the past about two-thirds of the population occurred along the Rutshuru River and along the shores of Lake Edward whereas half of the current population is concentrated along the Ishasha River. In 2009, most hippos were located around ranger posts and legal fishing villages. Transfrontier cooperation between the Congolese and Ugandan conservation agencies including regular ranger patrols has contributed to the stability of the Ishasha River population. Although local communities recognize the importance and the value of hippos in conservation, education and fisheries, bushmeat is sold and bought by communities in and around Virunga NP. Main actors of poaching are reported to be militias, soldiers and park staff (including rangers). The main reasons for poaching are reported to be the bushmeat trade (including trophies) and meat for subsistence use. Apart from poaching, the lack of knowledge of conservation laws by communities and poor law enforcement, and a weak institutional policy have contributed to the decline of hippopotamus populations in Virunga NP. If hippos are to persist in Virunga NP adaptive conservation measures are required such as to sustain the transboundary cooperation with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, to reinforce ranger patrols, to develop an intelligence network to limit the bushmeat trade, to enhance community awareness, and to initiate participatory activities that involve different stakeholders. Hippo population monitoring is needed to assess the effectiveness of these strategies and to advise decision makers on political measures to be taken, both at local and national levels.
The field of biodiversity research gathers and crosses collections of environmental data, scientific data, geospatial data and cultural data. All of the available datasets have created a global information pool which can be used to develop further research and downstream bioeconomy innovations. Intellectual Property governance rules vary between proprietary assets and research commons. The largest datasets are collected, curated, mined, and shared at the national and international level by natural history museums and research institutions which are members of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), an international organization that aims to make available all known information on biodiversity, provide digitization, facilitate interoperability and retrieval of this data. This paper intends to explore the various legal regimes that apply to biodiversity data. Depending on the data format and the contribution structure, they can be considered as works, public sector information, data, databases, metadata, all submitted to different national and international legal regimes. Besides, contributors apply more or less restrictive terms of use between all rights reserved and open access options. In order to study the impact of governance choices and practices, the authors have conducted interviews with key stakeholders in several GBIF partner institutions in Europe and Latin America in order to better understand the policy challenges faced by biodiversity researchers who intend to share their information, such as biopiracy, commercial exploitation and scientific attribution for data reuse. One section of the paper will be dedicated to the study of the legal environment, while the other will focus on contractual practices.
Résumé Depuis 2002, la République démocratique du Congo (RD Congo), entre «guer-res et paix», s'est dotée d'un nouveau Code forestier. Entre autres innovations, le Code forestier considéré pose les bases de la décentralisation de la gestion des forêts. Dans l'esprit du décideur, il s'agit là d'un outil de durabilité fores-tière, de relance économique et de reconstitution de l'unité du pays. Le présent article fait une revue générale de cette «situation de départ». Il montre que le cadre institutionnel de gestion des forêts congolaises est un levier essentiel dans ces réformes. Il dégage ensuite les atouts, sur le papier, de ce nouveau Code forestier, notamment le transfert de droits et responsabilités de gestion aux com-munautés locales. L'article montre enfin comment l'absence des textes d'appli-cation et les faibles capacités de l'État peuvent hypothéquer ledit processus de décentralisation.