Concern on African pipeline watchdog

5 April 2001

In early March the World Bank Group announced a special International Advisory Group (IAG) to oversee the controversial Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline project. It was met with a lukewarm response from environment and human rights groups, concerned about loopholes and omissions in the Group’s charter.

Approved by the Bank in June 2000, in the face of opposition from local and international NGOs, the Bank’s $190 million loans to the governments of Chad and Cameroon are part of a project to be implemented by US companies ExxonMobil and Chevron. The IAG is supposed to help address concerns that the companies and governments may act irresponsibly on environmental, human rights and revenue management issues.

Whilst welcoming the IAG as a step toward greater transparency in project management, NGOs questioned the Group’s Terms of Reference. In particular they pointed to the lack of explicit mention of human rights, and the lack of a permanent presence in the pipeline region. The team of six will be headed by the former Prime Minister of Senegal, Mamadou Lamine Loum, and includes Hilde Johnson, former Development minister for Norway. They will make two site visits per year. Samuel Nguiffo of the Centre for Environment and Development in Cameroon cautioned, however, that: “there is no mention at all how the members of the group will actually communicate with the local people affected by this project”.