The Central African Republic (CAR) is a landlocked country of 623,000 km², roughly the size of France. It is bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan and South Sudan to the north and east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo to the south, and Cameroon to the west. The capital, Bangui, is located on the southern border . The terrain consists of a vast peneplain dominated by two mountain ranges at its eastern and western ends joined by a central spine that separates the two principal drainages, the Chari-Longue basin in the north and the Congo basin in the south .The country has a humid tropical equatorial climate to the south and a Sahelo-Sudanese climate to the north, characterized by two seasons: a dray season and a rainy season .
From south to north, the biological diversity is composed of five large phytogeographic zones, each with a specific fauna: the Guinean forest zone of dense humid forests; the Sudano-Ubangian zone, sheltering dense semi-humid, open and dry forests; the Sudano-Guinean and Sudano-Sahelian zones, composed of various types of savannahs; and the Sahelian zone, consisting of steppes.
Central Africans speak a wide variety of languages, including French and Sango which are the official languages. About four-fifths of the population profess Christianity, and about one-tenth of the population continues to practice traditional religions . Despite its richness in natural and cultural resources, CAR is among the poorest countries on the planet with poverty affecting more than half the population .
The population of CAR is estimated to be 4.977 million people (in 2022), and according to current projections, it will surpass 6 million by 2030 . With an annual population growth rate of 1.7%,  the country is sparsely and unequally populated with women representing 50.2% and young people under 18 representing 49.4% of the population . The average population density is 8 inhabitants per square km .
Approximately 42.2% of CAR’s population lives in urban areas (in 2020) . This figure is expected to reach 48% and 60% of the population by 2030 and 2050, respectively . A large proportion of the urban population lives in Bangui. The other major towns are Berbérati, Bossangoa and Bouar .
The Central African Republic is among the poorest countries on the planet, with a human development index (HDI) estimated at 0.397 in 2019 which put the country in the low human development category, positioning it at 188 out of 189 countries and territories. However, between 1990 and 2019, Central African Republic's HDI value increased from 0.334 to 0.397, an increase of 18.9% .
In 2019, CAR had a gross domestic product (GDP) of $ 2.2 billion and an annual growth rate of 3% . The CAR's economic activity slowed in 2020 and was more than 2% lower than at its 2019 level, mainly due to COVID-19 and related restriction measures  . Agriculture, the main sector and base of the Central African economy, contributes half of the GDP and occupies nearly four-fifths of the workforce. Diamonds and timber are also contributing sectors for the country’s economy .
The CAR envisages a holistic approach, integrating the adjustment of national policies and strategies, the improvement of legislative, sustainable development, and the transfer of technology in priority areas such as energy, agriculture, land and forestry and research . Technology transfer would include a capacity building program adopted at different levels, both institutional and local  .
However, it is important to underline that, generally the economies of Central Africa are making slow progress in creating digital jobs, due to significant structural constraints: less than 48 in 100 people have access to electricity, while the mobile phone subscription rate (66.9%) remains ten points below the African average. Only 9 out of every 100 people use a computer in Central Africa. One-third (34.2%) of the region is covered by 4G. The high cost of subscriptions explains the low Internet penetration rate, which is 26% compared to an average of 35% for Africa, and the few jobs created by digital technology .
Conflict and political instability continue to undermine the country's development agenda, and poverty remains high. According to the World Bank around 71% of the population lived below the international poverty line ($ 1.90 per day) in 2020 .
For more than 40 years, CAR has been caught in a cycle of recurring violence. The Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation (APPR-CAR) was signed in 2019 with 14 armed groups, providing a roadmap for long-term stability and peace in the country, even after armed groups linked to the Coalition of Patriots for change (CPC) left the agreement in December 2020 . Approximately 630,834 people remain internally displaced while 632,000 Central African refugees were sheltering in neighboring countries (UNHCR data as of January 30, 2021). It is expected that in 2021, 2.8 million Central Africans will need humanitarian assistance, with 1.9 million people in acute need. In order to meet humanitarian needs, the government of the Central African Republic and the Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) officially launched the $444.7 million Humanitarian Response Plan for 2021 .
The CAR is also threatened by many natural hazards, dominated by floods, forest fires and droughts . Floods are a recurring and devastating and are responsible for the largest share of economic and human losses as a result of natural disasters in the CAR . Vulnerability to these hazards is exacerbated by poverty and political insecurity. Recent disasters from the floods of August 2021, destroyed houses, water wells and latrines. In response, the European Union provided humanitarian funding of € 100,000 to help those most affected by natural hazards .
The history of formal environmental governance and management in CAR dates of Decree 89/043 of 23 February 1989, which established a national committee on environmental issues . The institutional framework for the management of the environment in the CAR has evolved considerably over time, beginning with the inclusion of an environmental unit within the Ministry of Water and Forests and ultimately leading to the establishment of a separate ministry, the Ministry of Environment, Ecology and Sustainable Development in 2013 , and the later on Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, along with the Ministry of Water, Forests, Hunting and Fishing. The CAR’s Environmental Policy is implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, which is responsible for defining national environmental management guidelines and strategies, as well as preparing related laws. At regional level, the responsibilities of the Ministry are fulfilled by the Regional Water and Forestry Directorates.
However, although the Government has adopted a number of environmental laws and policy, regulatory framework and institutional capacity for environmental management are still weak, and the political, security crises in the country further encourage environment degradation and natural resources over exploitation . Environmental degradation during the recurring armed conflicts impacted water resources, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services which constitute now serious obstacles to the country’s development and economic stability. The country’s most pressing environmental problems are water pollution, desertification and the loss of biodiversity  .
The CAR submitted its Nationally-Determined Contribution to the UNFCCC in 2016 and its Second National Communication to the UNFCCC (2015), which outlines the country’s vision in building an economy that is diversified and sustainable, which also adheres to the country’s needs to protect its environmental resources. It is focused on a low-carbon development approach to build and diversify the country’s economy, committed to technological innovation. Key adaptation priorities include the country’s agricultural, forestry, livestock, land use planning, energy security, water resources management, and public health sectors. The country’s National Adaptation Plan of Action was also finalized in 2008. CAR is committed to integrating climate change into its development plans and strategies, to develop a National Climate Change Adaptation Plan, and to prepare the country’s eligibility for the Green Climate Fund. To reach its adaptation goals, CAR envisages a holistic approach, integrating adjustment of national policies and strategies, improvement of the legislative and regulatory frameworks, and capacity development and transfer of technology in certain priority areas .
The European Union (EU) is the Central African Republic's primary partner both politically and financially. Aligned with the EU's Green Deal the EU has applied an integrated approach combining all the instruments at its disposal to support the country's progress towards peace, stability, democracy and sustainable development. Moreover, the EU has been the main contributor to the elections in the Central African Republic through the signing of a financing agreement of 15.5 million euros for the organization of presidential, legislative and local elections in 2020 and early 2021 to support the consolidation of the democracy process (Samuela Isopi, Ambassador of the European Union in the Central African Republic) .
In addition, the National Indicative Program (NIP) for the Central African Republic, totaling 442 million euros from the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), is part of the National Recovery and Peacebuilding Plan (RCPCA) in CAR . The priority sectors are: (1) economic governance and social services, including education and health; (2) security sector reform and democratic governance; and (3) rural resilience and job creation. In this context, the first multi-donor EU Bêkou Trust Fund was established.
Furthermore, as a part of the European Union's response to the COVID-19 crisis in Africa, the European Commission also granted €54 million to help the country overcome the crises and address the socio-economic risks associated with the health crisis and contribute to the gradual restoration of State authority over the country, which is essential for the CAR's economic and social development (Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships (2020) .
Based on EU fundamental values and founded on mutual interests with CAR, the draft Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) (2021-2027) identifies three priority areas for EU's cooperation with CAR, aligned with the pillars of the RCPCA (1. Support peace, security and reconciliation; 2. Renewing the social contract between the state and society; 3. Contribute to economic recovery and the revival of productive sectors). The three priorities areas are: (i) Peace, Security, Justice and Governance, (ii) Human Development and (iii) Green transition and sustainable development .
Moreover, European Development Partners in Central African Republic (EU, France, Italy, the UK, Germany and Switzerland) have agreed on the new Joint European Strategy. Six priority objectives have been defined and are aligned with the country's development plan. Good governance will be considered as a cross-cutting issue as well. The aim of Joint Programming in CAR will be to facilitate the implementation of the RCPCA through the progressive harmonisation of the different country approaches and programming cycles of the European partners around the cycle and priorities of the plan .
The impacts of climate change hamper CAR's development agenda and efforts for economic and political stability, further affecting poor and vulnerable groups. Food security is also a major concern as the majority of the country's agriculture, which contribute to 50% of GDP, is rain-fed and produced by small-scale farmers . The poorest rural populations are the most at risk, since the agricultural sector employs about 72% of the country's population and is the main source of income and food supply   .
The structure of the economy, fragile and based mainly on natural resources, especially agriculture and forests, depends heavily on climate variability and change . Rising temperatures and varying rainfall affect the country's forests, also essential for livelihoods and ecosystem services, which are already threatened by land use change and the growing demand for charcoal and tropical forest products. More extreme weather events such as heavy rains after prolonged droughts also cause erosion and flash floods, damage roads and infrastructure, wipe out crops and put lives at risk . In addition, changes in precipitation parameters have far-reaching consequences for ecosystems and biodiversity, the water industry and rivers in CAR .
The CAR is rich in biodiversity which provides important goods and services to support the national economy and the livelihoods of the population. The products and services provided by biodiversity significantly contribute to the well-being of the population. Over 60% of the Central African population lives in rural areas, where most depend on subsistence agriculture, forestry, or mining as their main source of income . Wildlife contributes 90% of the protein requirements for 62% of the rural population . Watercourse habitats are also vulnerable to gold and diamond mining exploration and biodiversity degradation. The Sangba, Bamingui and Ngoumbiri rivers, in protected areas, whose watercourses are vital to animals and local populations, have been extensively destroyed as a result of illegal mining activities .
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