Press Release / May 4, 2005

World Bank Ombudsman Investigates Forestry Fiasco in Cambodia

Global Witness warmly welcomes the recent decision by the World Bank board to authorise an Inspection Panel investigation of its Forest Concession Management and Control Pilot Project in Cambodia (FCMCPP).

For five years, the Bank has used the FCMCPP to promote a system of logging concessions that has demonstrably failed Cambodia economically, socially and environmentally. In the face of overwhelming evidence, the Bank has nevertheless clung to the notion that the mafia-style logging syndicates which have ravaged Cambodia’s forests can be reformed.

In 2004 an independent forest sector review commissioned by international donor institutions and the Cambodian government concluded that the logging concession system should be scrapped. Just two months later, however, the Bank’s project recommended that the government approve the forest management plans of six companies which have a long history of illegal logging and contractual violations.

A group of Cambodian villagers who have previously suffered at the hands of these companies lodged a complaint against the project with the Bank’s Inspection Panel in February this year. In March the Panel recommended to the Bank’s executive directors that it undertake a full investigation of the FCMCPP.

“The Inspection Panel process provides the opportunity to hold the Bank to account for five years of blunders in Cambodia,” said Global Witness Director Simon Taylor. “The Bank must, at a minimum, renounce its project’s endorsement of companies whose operations are a parody of sustainable forest management. Furthermore, it should use this investigation as the basis for a fundamental revision of its approach to forest management in post-conflict countries.”

The Inspection Panel investigation in Cambodia is all the more relevant given current challenges facing the international donor community in other post-conflict countries, particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). DRC possesses the second largest tropical forest in the world and 40 million of its 58 million people depend on it for survival. Indications from the initial stages of the Bank’s work in DRC suggest that the lessons of Cambodia have not been learned.

“The Bank is over-ambitious in its estimates of potential timber revenues and makes the basic assumption that industrial logging is the best use of DRC’s forests. It has an unrealistic expectation that policies and commitments will be matched by political will and good governance, and all this in a vast country just emerging from full-scale civil war. This is exactly how the Bank approached its work in Cambodia; however it is not too late to salvage the situation in DRC given commitment, the necessary resources and, above all, some original thinking.” said Global Witness Director Patrick Alley.

For further information, please contact Simon Taylor (tel. 44 (0)20 7272 6731; 44 (0)7957 142 121, [email protected]); or Mike Davis (tel. 855 (0)12 527 523, [email protected]).

Notes for editors:

• The World Bank’s Forest Concession Management and Control Pilot Project commenced in 2000 and is 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,,menuPK:64132057~pagePK:64130364~piPK:64132056~theSitePK:380794,00.html.
• 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:,,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
• For a short summary of the World Bank’s involvement in the forest sector in Cambodia, see Global Witness article in ‘Broken Promises’ – a report produced by a coalition of NGOs in April 2005:
• World Bank President James Wolfensohn indicated his support for a reappraisal of the Bank’s approach in Cambodia during a visit to Phnom Penh in February 2005, when he informed journalists that “we are taking another look (at the Bank’s work on forestry) to see if we have screwed up”.