World Bank breaks promises on forests

13 June 2005

An inter-agency NGO report finds that programmes funded by the World Bank Group are causing destruction of the world’s remaining forests and harming forest-dependent peoples. It says that the Bank has failed to implement its own forest safeguard policy, and that not one of the conditions the Bank promised to fulfil has been met. The report’s authors chart some of the disastrous environmental and social devastation that has occurred as a result of Bank involvement in forestry around the globe and attack the contention that the expansion of industrial logging brings economic benefits to a country’s poor.

Key findings include:

  • the external advisory group, set up to “facilitate transparency” and provide independent advice on the implementation of the Bank’s forest policy has so far failed to achieve its terms of reference;
  • “community forest management” projects in India, meant to alleviate poverty, have ignored Bank safeguard policies and trampled the rights of indigenous peoples. Communities and NGOs described one project as a “sugar-coated pill which is bitter inside”.
  • IFC projects have threatened forests and forest people, notably for soya expansion in the Brazilian Amazon (see below) and palm oil production in Indonesia;
  • policy changes to promote industrial logging in the Congo basin have been pushed through with the assistance of the Bank without required public consultation or measures to secure local community rights. Consequently, “the rights and livelihoods of millions of people will be put at risk”; and
  • Bank-implemented conservation projects funded by the Bank’s Global Environment Facility have imperilled traditional livelihoods and marginalised communities, and have resulted in “increased enforcement laws and exclusionary conservation policies”.

Forestry fiasco in Cambodia

NGOs have welcomed the recent board decision to authorise an Inspection Panel investigation of the Forest Concession Management and Control Pilot Project in Cambodia (see Update 45). A complaint launched on behalf of villagers maintains that the project will spell environmental degradation caused by industrial-scale logging, damage to watersheds and subject villagers to the “kinds of abuses” they have suffered in the past. “The Inspection Panel process provides the opportunity to hold the Bank to account for five years of blunders in Cambodia,” said Simon Taylor from UK-based Global Witness.

the disastrous environmental and social devastation caused by Bank involvement in forestry

Mangroves principles: consultations ignored

Fourteen NGOs from all continents have expressed strong disappointment at the World Bank’s draft Principles for a code of conduct for mangrove management, which has failed to ensure “wider-scale involvement and comment by local and indigenous peoples” who live and work in the mangrove zones. They also criticise the process for being too top down, and failing to provide timely translations into local languages.

In a letter sent in May to Ronald Zweig, senior aquaculturist at the World Bank, NGOs criticised the drafting process for ignoring civil society recommendations accepted by the Bank during consultations in Washington in 2003.These would have facilitated wider-scale participation by local and indigenous peoples who live and work in the mangrove zones and would have included workshops in all regions.

The reply from Mr Zweig to NGOs stated that the principles are “very much a work in progress”, and that the Bank had made public relevant materials for use by all groups and individuals interested in entering into a dialogue about the mangrove principles (see link below).