A World Bank Inspection Panel report, published on Tuesday, strongly criticises the way the Bank has managed its support of forest sector reforms in the Democratic Republic of Congo for failing to comply with its internal policies and procedures, not consulting local Pygmy communities affected by the reform activities and highly overestimating the benefits of industrial scale logging in reducing poverty, said non-governmental organisation Global Witness today.
Indigenous Pygmy groups in DRC made a complaint to the independent World Bank Inspection Panel in December 2005 having become concerned that the DRC forest policy of the Bank, supporting the development of the industrial logging sector, was disregarding the rights of the forty million forest-dependent people and ignoring specifically the existence and rights of the 250,000-600,000 indigenous Pygmies whose lives depend uniquely on the forests and its products.
“Ultimately, the Bank’s forest projects promoted the interests of asset-stripping logging companies over indigenous groups who are dependent on the forests” said Patrick Alley, Global Witness Director. “NGOs had repeatedly complained that the Bank’s approach to forestry in countries with poor governance, such as DRC, would be socially and environmentally damaging, and these criticisms have been confirmed by the Panel’s report. Bank forest economists admit that they cannot point to a single example of industrial logging in the tropics alleviating poverty or delivering durable economic benefit, so why on earth do they keep promoting it?”
According to the Inspection Panel, the Bank’s activities:
· Failed to identify the presence of Pygmy communities in project-affected areas,
· Failed to identify the cultural property and spiritual value of forest areas to Pygmy peoples,
· Failed to ensure adequate consultation of local people, and ignored evidence of the negative impact concession logging would have on the livelihoods of forest-dependent groups,
· Critically overestimated the revenues from the timber concessions which formed the centre of the Bank’s supporting activities in forest sector reform and the poverty-alleviation benefits of industrial-scale logging to the communities,
· Failed to prepare an environmental impact assessment,
· Insufficiently accounted for the lack of basic institutional, technical and field capacity to enforce the law and to address administrative, social, environmental and other issues posed by concession-based logging.
“While we welcome the Panel findings which catalogue the numerous and serious flaws in the sector reform activities, the Bank should now ensure that forestry projects elsewhere do not repeat the same mistakes and failures.” said Alley. “The Bank must ensure that future forest policy in DRC and elsewhere is centred on advancing the rights of forest dependent peoples including improving their livelihoods and ensuring the full participation in policies that impact them”.
The release of the Inspection Panel report comes just one month after the publication by Global Witness’ Independent Forest Monitoring team of a report following a three-month scoping study in DRC. The study found that there was a “complete absence of meaningful controls, legal ambiguity and lack of standardised practices leaving the sector in anarchy and providing fertile ground for abuse and fraud”. Global Witness’ main recommendation is a complete moratorium on logging activities until forest land use zoning is completed in addition to a comprehensive legal framework, the development of meaningful regulatory capacity, and measures to strengthen community rights and participation.
Notes for editors:
1. The World Bank’s Inspection Panel was created in 1993 to increase the accountability of World Bank lending and to provide local people with a forum of last resort to enforce their rights under Bank policies and loan conditions.
2. DRC’s forests are the second largest block of tropical forest in the world. They are critical for the livelihoods of at least 40 million people and are an invaluable source for biodiversity and could make a significant contribution in mitigating climate change.
3. In 2007, Global Witness was commissioned to conduct a three month feasibility study on Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) in DRC. The aim of the study was to evaluate the nature and extent of illegal logging in selected areas of the DRC’s forests as well as the effectiveness and performance of the Congolese forest administration’s control system. The full findings can be downloaded at http://www.globalwitness.org/pages/en/ifmdrc.html