The World Bank’s Board of Directors dealt a severe blow to the organisation’s credibility last week by deciding not to investigate evidence that its Liberian forestry programme had harmed forest-dependent communities.
Liberian organization Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) and UK-based Global Witness last year requested the World Bank’s Inspection Panel investigate allegations that it was supporting a destructive logging system in Liberia. The complaint was made on behalf of forest-dependent Liberian communities. GW and SDI presented evidence that the World Bank programme was helping to parcel out the country’s tropical forests to companies that lack the necessary expertise or finances to operate and have, in many cases, broken the country’s forestry laws.
The result is that companies are not producing the jobs or revenue from forestry that the government projected, thereby severely undermining the rationale for logging in Liberia. It was expected that by July of this year the country would have generated US$107 million in forest taxes since 2007, but at present has collected only US$13.7 million.
“The World Bank has turned its back on forest-dependent communities in Liberia by refusing to investigate these claims,” said Jonathan Gant at Global Witness. “Rather than playing a positive role in the future of Liberia’s forests, the World Bank is now central to their destruction.”
The World Bank’s Board says it remains committed to staying engaged in the country’s failing forestry sector and will address concerns by following up with its Liberian programme management. This response falls far short of what is necessary to address the problems in the country. At a minimum, the Bank should insist that no further forest contracts are allocated until the Liberian government has addressed problems within the sector. It must make sure forest-dependant communities are able to negotiate a fair deal with logging companies and it must conduct a comprehensive study of the best use of Liberia’s forests over the long term.
“At the moment, the Liberian people can’t be sure the Bank will take the steps necessary to fix the problems it has helped create. The bank must urgently take action to make sure matters don’t get any worse by putting pressure on the Liberian government to ensure Liberia’s forest-dependent communities get a fair deal,” said Jonathan Yiah of SDI.
Jonathan Gant + 1 202 525 2753 +917 929 9405 [email protected]
Natalie Ashworth + 0207 492 5820 [email protected]
Oliver Courtney +44 (0)207 492 5848, +44(0)7815 73188 [email protected]
Jonathan Yiah in Liberia +231 6426271 [email protected]
- The Inspection Panel is an internal complaint mechanism within the World Bank that investigates claims that Bank procedures have been breached.