Pandering to the industrial lobby? WWF (1) resurrects failed World Bank policy in Cambodia’s forests.

Whilst welcoming the recently (2) announced WWF/World Bank Forest Alliance objective of a 10% reduction in global deforestation rates by 2010, Global Witness questions its ability to deliver, given the Alliance’s track record in Cambodia and other countries.(3) The Alliance’s support for industrial logging in moist tropical forests is particularly problematic.

“What business has a conservation organisation providing technical know-how to a logging company? How can a pro-poor Bank justify funding the continued destruction of forests that poor people are dependent upon?" said Patrick Alley, Director of Global Witness.

For 10 years the World Bank pursued policies in Cambodia that led to increased forest destruction and the undermining of forest dependant peoples’ rights, livelihoods and aspirations. The timber concessionaires remaining in Cambodia all have long track records of illegal and destructive logging. Oversight of these companies is all but non-existent and the Forest Administration is plagued by corruption. Even the Independent Forest Monitor has been publicly criticised by the World Bank for its failings. Bank activities in Cambodia’s forest sector are currently subject to an internal Inspection Panel review.

“The Bank’s support for the industrial logging in Cambodia set back forest reform by a decade. The Alliance must draw lessons from this experience.” said Global Witness’ Jon Buckrell.

However, in October 2004 a WWF consultant took part in a two-week ITTO (5) diagnostic mission to Cambodia. The resultant report , summarised in the most recent edition of the ITTO’s Tropical Forest Update (6) , recommends amongst other things: the resumption of industrial logging. This is completely at odds with a recent Independent Forest Sector Review which recommended the end of the concession system in Cambodia.

“WWF/ITTO’s support for industrial-scale logging in Cambodia defies belief. Which bit of ‘the loggers are the problem’ do they not understand?” said Alley.

Global Witness is calling for the WWF to retract specific recommendations of the Cambodia study and for the Alliance to end its support for logging companies worldwide.

1 The World Wide Fund for Nature – The World Wildlife Fund, in the United States of America.

2 This announcement was made at the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) in New York on 25 May 2005.

3 For more information on World Bank forest policy and projects see: “Broken Promises – How the World Bank Group policies fail to protect forests and forest people’s rights”; April 2005

4 The International Tropical Timber Organisation.

5 The full report can be found at:

6 Volume 15, Number 1, 2005 – ISSN 1022-5439.