An external review of Cambodian forest concessionaires endorsed by a World Bank project has concluded that none should be allowed to proceed with their plans for further industrial logging.
The review, commissioned by the Bank itself, is the fourth donor-funded study of logging concessionaires since 2000. All have lent weight to the argument that Global Witness has been making for almost a decade – that the concession system is structurally flawed, abused by piratical operators and urgently needs to be terminated.
“What is remarkable is not so much this review’s findings as the number of studies required to reiterate the same obvious conclusion,” said Jon Buckrell of Global Witness. “When will the Cambodian government and its donor partners move from commissioning costly reviews to acting on their findings?”
The World Bank’s own stubborn promotion of the logging concessions in Cambodia has violated Bank safeguard policies and prompted an Inspection Panel inquiry into its Forest Concession Management and Control Pilot Project. The Inspection Panel is expected to announce its findings early next year. Global Witness is urging the Bank to review all its forestry programmes to ensure that the mistakes of Cambodia are not replicated in other post-conflict countries, notably Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia.
The impasse in Cambodia’s forestry reform process is due not to a lack of ideas so much as an absence of will. In 2004 the Cambodian government and donors including the World Bank, FAO, DFID and Danida commissioned an Independent Forest Sector Review (IFSR) to provide a road map for forest management reform in Cambodia. The IFSR advocated replacing concessions with a partnership forestry system based on commune-level management and greater community participation. Government and donor implementation of its findings has thus far been negligible.
“Ending the current paradigm of centralised logging benefiting a corrupt elite is vital not only to the preservation of the forests, but also the livelihoods of rural Cambodians,” said Jon Buckrell. “After a decade of missed opportunities it is crucial that donors and Cambodian officials make this latest review the catalyst for substantive change rather than another layer of padding for their bookshelves.”
For further information, please contact Mike Davis: [email protected]; 00 44 207 272 6731.
Notes for Editors
• The GFA Consulting Group ‘Review of Strategic Forest Management Plans Prepared by Concession Companies Operating in Cambodia’ was circulated by the World Bank Cambodia office on 2 October. It can be downloaded from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTCAMBODIA/Resources/Review-SFMP-Cambodia-2005.pdf
• The World Bank’s Forest Concession Management and Control Pilot Project commenced in 2000 and ended in June this year. It was funded by a $5 million Learning and Innovation Loan (LIL) to Cambodia.
• The Inspection Panel is a three-member body created in 1993 to provide an independent forum to private citizens who believe that they or their interests have been or could be directly harmed by a project financed by the World Bank. For more details, see http://www.inspectionpanel.org.
• The request for inspection of the FCMCPP was sent to the Inspection Panel in February 2005 by NGO Forum on Cambodia, whom the plaintiffs have nominated as their representative. This request document can be downloaded from the Inspection Panel’s website, along with the World Bank management’s response and the Inspection Panel’s assessment of the request and its recommendations: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTINSPECTIONPANEL/0,,contentMDK:20387088~pagePK:64129751~piPK:64128378~theSitePK:380794,00.html.
• A briefing document by Global Witness which sets out in detail the case for investigating the FCMCPP was submitted to the Inspection Panel in February 2005 as part of the request for inspection. This document can be downloaded at http://www.globalwitness.org/campaigns/forests/cambodia/Feb%2005%20World%20Bank%20Inspection%20Panel%20Briefing%20Document.pdf.
• For a short summary of the World Bank’s involvement in the forest sector in Cambodia, see Global Witness article in the April 2005 joint NGO report ‘Broken Promises’: http://www.wrm.org.uy/actors/WB/brokenpromises.pdf.
• The findings of the 2004 Independent Forest Sector Review can be found at http://www.cambodia-forest-sector.net. The link to the main report is http://www.cambodia-forest-sector.net/mainreport.htm. The IFSR recommended that the Cambodian Government maintain the moratorium on logging, terminate the concession system, cease road construction in undisturbed forest areas and undertake forest conversion only as a last resort. It also calls for the creation of a private interests register to record the business interests of senior public servants.
Press Release / Oct. 10, 2005