Erick Kassongo is a lawyer and climate activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Erick has fought environmental cases on behalf of indigenous communities and describes his legal battles to stop deforestation as David vs. Goliath in nature. Erick’s strength and bravery in the face of ‘influential giants’ in DRC demonstrates the force that the Global Power Shift movement is based on.
I was working as a lawyer when a friend asked me to take on a case for indigenous communities who were trying to stop illegal deforestation in the province of Equateur –the province is the home to more than 50% of the forest in DRC. Winning such battles is difficult in DRC as there are many ways that the powerful individuals and companies undertaking the deforestation can influence government and the legal system. In 2008, I travelled to Rome for a conference held by the International Development Law Organisation and this was where I first heard about climate change, I realised how incredibly important an issue it is and have been working as an activist ever since. In 2009 I attended a training in Johannesburg held by 350.org and when I returned home I founded the Congolese Centre for Sustainable Development which works to educate and mobilise Congolese youth to take action against climate change.
My courage and passion are my two greatest strengths. My legal background also helps and I often see myself as a mediator between climate activists and policy makers. I am able to provide advice on climate policy to my own government and am often called on to provide perspective on various environmental management issues.
I want to gain skills and tools at Global Power Shift to grow our movement back in DRC. There are so many amazing people at GPS and I want to learn from their experiences to improve the way we undertake our advocacy in DRC.