Addressing Environmental Issues in the DRC
Today the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to feel the echoing ramifications of past disturbances brought about by regional conflicts that has led to the threatening of human and environmental life. As mentioned in earlier posts, the DRC faces a wide array of environmental issues that include land degradation, deforestation, and both water and air pollution. This is the result of an onslaught of violence that shook the DRC during the 1990s in which seven African nations waged war in order to gain supremacy over rich natural resources such as water, diamonds, and gold. The environment experienced irreversible looting and degradation waged by armed militias and militaries. Additionally, according to the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Economics, climate change is “expected to increase frequency of and vulnerability to natural disasters (floods, droughts, and heat waves), and affect land productivity and livelihood opportunities”.
One of the DRC’s most precious resources are its rainforests, and so the government has taken certain steps to conserve and protect them. According to MongaBay, the government had “imposed a ban on the allocation of new logging concessions” in 2002, however after this law was widely ignored, “it received a $90 million grant from the World Bank to help police existing forestry concessions, control new concessions, and develop sustainable management plans for its forests. The DRC government also joined the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, all which worked to gain money from “industrial countries” in order to protect their rainforests. Additionally, according to the University of Gothenburg, key actors are seeking new ways to address environmental issues, which was presented in “The poverty and Production growth strategy paper”,in which “under Pillar 3 improvement of water and sanitation is highlighted as one of the top priorities”. In terms of environmental protection, the Ministry of Environment has sought to expand its national budget from the meager .09% it began at in 2006. The agriculture sector also seeks to “restore and exceed the pre-crisis production level” by “seed-centres, modern crop methods, revitalizing the livestock sector, and diversifying production and improving yields.” There have also been initiatives introduced in the mining sector, and the DRC is still working to approach the concerns of climate change.
Addressing Human Rights Issues in the DRC
In terms of human rights abuses the DRC has garnered a long rap sheet, due to regional conflict during the 1990s in its warring against seven other African nations, and then the recent violent conflicts that have peaked as a result of the DRC’s current president, refusing to step down after his term in office had reached its expiration date. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, it had been in December of 2017 when a Catholic procession had been marching peacefully in protest were publicly attacked by Security Forces, in which eight people had been killed. Just a year prior, senior Congolese government officials had recruited rebel combatants from a militia group called M23 from Uganda and Rwanda to put down protests in the Congo. Orignally being the Congo’s main enemy force, M23 had been a militia that had committed atrocious human rights abuses in eastern Congo of 2012-2013, and many of its members are wanted for human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. This has led to rampant violence that has resulted in mass casualties of man, woman, and child. Therefore, in the government’s dealing with human rights abuses, it is very much fueling the fire, and serves as a perpetrator rather than a defender of its people.
Relationship between Climate Change and Human Rights
According to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, the onslaught of natural phenomena that has recently occurred as a result of Climate change- “frequency of extreme weather events and natural disasters, rising sea-levels, floods, heat waves, droughts, desertification, water shortages, and the spread of tropical and vector-borne diseases”- are a threat to certain human rights enjoyed by humans, “including the rights to life, water and sanitation, food, health, housing, self-determination, culture and development”. Climate change is important in the narrative of human rights because it threatens those most vulnerable to ( and often not responsible for) climate change. The U.N recognizes that it is not only the nation-state, but the business/corporation that must be held accountable for not only their direct contribution to climate change, but their indirect perpetration of human rights abuses. In Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey’s TedX Talk, she recognizes different communities all over the world that have maintained a spiritual connection with their ancestral lands despite the progression of global modernization that has been spearheaded by the West. These communities are the most vulnerable to climate change because the world does not imagine that their capitalist ventures that affect the environment in industry and manufacturing threaten the culture, lifestyle, and human rights of these indigenous communities.
Erosion of the Ethnosphere
In Wade Davis’ Ted Talk entitled “Dreams from endangered culture” he not only emphasizes the possibility of ethnicities going extinct, but he demonstrates that we are currently living in the age ethnocide. Ethnocide has been universally celebrated as a part of a development, modernized strategy. Davis explains that we were born with 6,000 languages, but now half of these languages are dead. With each elder that had carried that language, and has died, so are the stories, myths, legends, and wisdom that were bound within these languages. When language dies, culture too is then infected, and this can lead to the eventual erosion of indigenous peoples. Davis said that “Whenever you look around the world you discover that these are not cultures destined to fade away. These are dynamic living peoples being driven out of existence by identifiable forces that are beyond their capacity to adapt to”. These forces include but are by no means limited to deforestation, disease entities, and political domination, all of which have in one shape or form lead to the erosion of age old indigenous communities. I too can see these apocalyptic concerns and am concerned of the future as a result. My father, for example is a Nigerian man whose tribal language is Yoruba. He one day explained to me how whenever he prays, he must remind himself, force himself to pray in his ethnic tongue instead of English, as he does not wish to forget the language of his people. I do not believe this would have happened if forces such as colonialism, imperialism, and even modernization had not been so exploitative on people that they deem as living in the “Third World” and designate as backward.
According to Faroosh Noor, eurocentrism is spin off off from ethnocentrism which is the “the tendency of individuals and cultures to view themselves as well as the environment around them from the perspective of their own culture, values and beliefs”. Therefore, eurocentrism is the mentality of European thought, culture, and lifestyle being not only good, but superior over other non-European cultures. Noor cites Jacques Derrida, who wrote that Europe is torn between being able to maintain its global and cultural leadership, and recognizing that it exists within a multicultural world and needs to view the world with a multicultural lense. If Europeans accept the latter, they will not longer be able to simultaneously enforce their own culture on others. On the opposite spectrum of Eurocentric, Noor writes of essentialism, which is a reactionary mindset to eurocentrism, in which the individual or groups “ base their sense of identity on rudimentary, fundamental essences which can be understood as cultural, historical, racial, and even genetic particularities”. This can be “reactionary, exclusive, and defensive” thinking. Noor concludes that it is important to be neither eurocentric nor essentialist, as siding with either leads to putting human rights in major jeopardy. IF we continue to take these two sides, there will be an onslaught of war upon cultures that will seek to not only demean, but destroy one another. Instead it is important to recognize that we live in a multicultural world and we all have an equal space reserved and equally valued stories to tell that need not be overshadowed by others.