PAFC Congo Basin

Implementation of a regional approach to the development of PEFC certification systems.


PEFC is an alliance between national certification systems for sustainable forest management.

Since 2011, PEFC International has been implementing an initiative to support the development of national PAFC systems in the Congo Basin, notably in Gabon, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo.

Through this project, ATIBT wants to expand the third party certification offer for sustainable forest management, so that loggers have the choice between the two main certification schemes for sustainable management – FSC and PEFC – thereby allowing more loggers to be certified.

This regional approach will make it possible to minimise the costs of PAFC certification, by pooling its development in the 3 impacted countries. This will facilitate its implementation, and make it possible to minimise its costs for companies.

It should be noted that this regional approach is totally new and innovative for the PEFC. It aims to respond to the particularities of the Congo Basin context and could later be applied in other tropical regions.

This regional approach will be a continuation of national initiatives and will build on the experiences gained over the last 15 years while replacing previous methods.

This will allow for greater anchoring of certification in the Congo Basin and reach a larger number of loggers and diversify the potential for certified loggers. Certification in the Basin, which has been stagnant in the last few years, will thus be revived.


The project is co-funded by the PPECF (PROGRAM FOR THE PROMOTION OF CERTIFIED FOREST OPERATIONS), PEFC International, and IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, from the Netherlands.

The project benefits from technical assistance by the TEREA consultancy firm.

The approach of the Congo Basin PAFC project will enable us:

  • To achieve, through the pooling of tools and human resources, savings in funding for the operation and administration of the system (a close, cohesive and competent team) and also during the accreditation processes and during the review process that is conducted every 5 years (a firm and costly obligation imposed by the PEFC).
  • To ensure the sustainability of the system, in particular through the recruitment (at the beginning of the project) of a project coordinator who will define a viable and structured regional initiative.
  • To create a sub-regional dynamic between the different players and stakeholders that focuses on certification (in connection with ATIBT FELGT-Certification project).

Therefore, the project does not simply aim to produce a tool, but it seeks from the outset to establish the conditions for its long-term functioning.

As previously mentioned, the project aims to develop a PAFC certification system for the Congo Basin, to have it recognised by the PEFC Council (which necessarily entails compliance with both content and process requirements), and to provide forest operators and auditors with a tool enabling them to implement the requirements as easily as possible.

PAFC certification is now present in Gabon, and Cameroon is following the same path. There is also a PAFC organisation in the Republic of Congo and this association became a member of the PEFC alliance in mid-2017. Gabon needed to start revising its system in 2018, Cameroon will also need to do so quickly to finalise its compliance with certain PEFC requirements and Congo has not yet started developing its certification system. As for CAR and DRC, there is private sector interest, but for the time being, there is still a lot to be done.

This cooperation is a unique opportunity to implement a regional approach that will replace national initiatives, while capitalising on the experience obtained in Gabon and Cameroon and unblocking complex situations such as the one in Congo.

This will therefore allow us to have:

  • a single documentation system for the three countries that will be available for CAR and DRC as soon as the stakeholders of these countries decide to get started,
  • a single regional standard supplemented by national annexes for the specificities of each country,
  • a regional PAFC initiative that is set up, functional and sustainable, along with reactivated national initiatives.

This will provide economies of scale through reduced system development costs, as well as an eventual centralisation of system management through a regional initiative, and simplification for certifying body accreditation (i.e. increased competition between certifying bodies with a potential for lower audit costs) and for the standard’s future revision processes.

This will reduce certification costs for companies and provide an opportunity for the PAFC system to be implemented in an economically efficient and financially independent manner. In addition, the PAFC credibility and visibility will be enhanced.

In addition, in order to promote the adoption of the PAFC forest management standard by loggers, the national annexes will also serve as a practical guide to the standard. In fact, the guide developed for PAFC Gabon was very positively received, both by auditors and by companies’ certification managers, as it provides them with clear and precise guidelines to follow.

Deliverables and expected results:

  • Regional PAFC certification scheme with versions in both French and English;
  • Recognition of the regional PAFC scheme (with its regional forest management standard and national annexes) by the PEFC Council;
  • A regional PAFC initiative that is implemented, functional and sustainable.

Activities undertaken:

The project will be implemented by ATIBT, which will appoint a full-time project coordinator from the start (later a part-time mission), with the help of external technical assistance.

It will rely on the involvement and mobilisation of national PAFC actors (teams and stakeholders), and on the following actions:

  • Development of a “regional” PAFC forest management standard in compliance with PEFC requirements, with its three national annexes describing the specificities of each country and serving as interpretation guides for both companies and auditors;
  • Development of a PAFC certification system that is common to the three countries;
  • Translation of both the standards and the system documents into English in order to be able to submit them to the PEFC for recognition;
  • Recognition by the PEFC Council of the PAFC certification system;
  • Institutionalising and rendering operational the regional scheme (rallying of national offices, advocacy among stakeholders, communication, capacity building of national PAFCs, development of operational tools, definition of a regional initiative).



Loggers located in the three target countries will be the first beneficiaries of the project, as they will be offered a choice in terms of sustainable forest management certification; the interpretation guide will enable them to implement it in a simpler, more efficient and more secure manner. At the commercial level, the possibility for some companies of having dual certification will also be an advantage.


Access the documents related to the development of the Congo Basin PAFC scheme on the PAFC website