Kristin Sippl

Kristin Sippl – Boston University, Political Science

Kristin Sippl graduated from Northwestern University in 2007 and is now a second year Ph.D. student in the Political Science Department at Boston University. After studying national security and civil-military relations in college, her interdisciplinary interests now include North-South relations, environment and resource security, sustainable development, and social norms such as consumerism and militarism, as well as experimental methods.

Prospects for National Resource Certification in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Protecting tropical rainforests is among the most efficient environmental investments one can make: with every hectare spared, climate change is slowed, biodiversity is preserved, desertification is thwarted, and local cultures and livlihoods are supported. The highest rates of tropical deforestation are now found in Sub-Saharan Africa’s Congo River Basin, the second largest rainforest in the world. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) holds 63% of this forest, making its preservation critical to the overall survival of this local and global resource. This critical case, however, is at a critical moment. With conflict now concentrated in the East, the relative peace and resource wealth in the DRC has attracted legitimate large-scale Western and Chinese extractive operations working to meet global consumer demand for timber products and personal electronic devices (the inputs to which are DRC minerals such as coltan). These corporations are now in position to “carve up” the DRC’s previously intact forests. Since conflicting interests have kept the international community from negotiating a legally binding forest convention and the DRC government lacks both the interest and the capacity to preserve its lucrative local resource, market-based instruments that rely on ethically motivated global consumers are the next policy tool to try.

This paper will assess the threats to the DRC’s forests, and ask what role the market-based tool of resource certification could play in its preservation. Analysis of certification regimes shows that certification is most successful when resources are sourced in developed countries with strong institutions, but that it could possibly have an eventual and limited positive effect on the DRC forests, and thus should be pursued. The fact the preservation of the DRC’s rainforest is in the hands of consumers on the other side of the planet shows that the global neighborhood is in fact quite small.