Cameroonian and Chadian groups are appealing for support during the last few crucial months before the World Bank decides whether to support the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline project (see previous Bretton Woods Updates). They hope groups will contact politicians, newspapers, prominent people and development agencies to raise awareness and table questions about the project’s likely economic, social and environmental consequences.
The project will not come to the Bank’s board for approval at least until April next year, but may get postponed again. In the meantime the project consortium (Exxon, Shell and Elf) is producing further studies after the Bank’s environment team rejected its previous reports. Bilateral export credit agencies from the US, France and possibly other countries are lining up to approve funds from the project if the Bank does.
Some Bank staff are trying to put a wedge between the local and international groups working on this issue, and arguing that some Northern groups merely want to block the project by whatever means. In fact the South-North NGO link-up on this project is asking searching questions to test the governments’ and Bank’s claims about how it would work and who would benefit. Some questions relate to specific points such as lack of good consultation with people who will be affected by the 650 mile pipeline, the need for NGOs to play an active role in managing its social and environmental impacts, and to produce a detailed oil spill response plan. At the same time, however, bigger issues are on the table: the governments’ willingness and capacity to spend the revenues for the good of poorer people in Chad and Cameroon. The World Bank has talked much in recent years about governance and corruption, and has been trying – without success – to get Cameroon to audit its oil production revenue and include it in the national accounts. So it is a question of negotiation and judgement how much the governments will benefit from the project and then how much they will pass on to their citizens. If many of their own people do not trust them to do this, they argue, perhaps the project should wait until the political climate improves.
Contact: Korinna Horta, EDF, 1875 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 1016, Washington DC 20009, USA, Tel: 001202 387 3500, Fax: 001202 234 6049,