VICTORY: World Bank Bends on Congo Rainforests

Congo rainforestThere have been significant developments in Forests.org's global campaign to end industrial logging of ancient forests. After a tenacious campaign by Rainforest Foundation-UK with the support of Forests.org's network, the World Bank has admitted it failed to protect the environment and local peoples in its program to develop the Democratic Republic of Congo's massive rainforests. This is a tremendous set back for Bank plan to zone the world's second largest rainforest for industrial logging (which we are assured will be “sustainable” and “manage ecosystems” and perhaps even “certified” but as always means destroying forever more of the world's last ancient rainforests).


In December of 2005 Forests.org's worldwide network sent several hundred thousand protest emails (the volume nearly crashed our server) to the World Bank's Board of Directors (see the archived alert at http://forests.org/shared/alerts/send.aspx?id=world_bank_congo ). The alert successfully sought to have the Bank's Inspection Panel investigate how Bank policies and projects were impacting indigenous peoples in areas where the World Bank was aggressively moving to establish industrial logging.
The Bank has admitted 1) they failed to follow their own safeguard policies, 2) they were not aware there were Pygmy communities in areas they were pushing for logging, and 3) it was 'inappropriate' to set targets for the number of new logging concessions that should be allocated by the Congolese government as a result of World Bank projects. This validates the allegations made in our email protest campaign, and shows the thoroughness and professionalism of Rainforest Foundation-UK who compiled the campaign background materials. Much remains to be done to place Congo's rainforests under community protection and eco-management, but the World Bank industrial logging juggernaut has been repelled for the time being by you and I.
In a second campaign update, the Rainforest Action Network has joined the Australian temperate rainforest campaign – bringing their substantial network and campaign expertise to bear on protecting Tasmania's ancient forests from horrendous industrial clearance by Gunns Ltd. RAN has just completed coordination of protests at Australian embassies around the world and have launched an attractive campaign web site at: http://treesnotgunns.org/ .
Following the lead of local Australian conservation organizations, Forests.org has campaigned for years to end ancient forest logging in Tasmania. Most recently in October of 2005 our network barraged Australian embassies, Australian logger Gunns, and Gunns' funders with protest emails (see http://forests.org/shared/alerts/send.aspx?id=gunns which will be updated and re-released today).
Forests.org is very pleased that Rainforest Action Network has joined the Tasmanian campaign, but does have concerns. RAN in the past has supported – indeed advocated for – heavy industrial logging of large areas of rainforests. RAN and others confuse rainforest preservation with commercial sustained yield forest management which is not ecologically sustainable. It remains to be seen whether the likes of RAN and Forest Ethics, who both just participated in selling out 2/3 of Canada's temperate rainforests wilderness to industrial logging to notionally protect the other third, would find such an outcome acceptable in Tasmania as well. Their press release below is strategically fuzzy on the issue of logging ancient forests in a supposedly “environmental” manner.
Should RAN suggest that there be anything short of a cessation of industrial logging in Tasmania (as WWF did in 2005) it will mean a parting of ways with local conservationists and Forests.org. The world's last large and mostly natural forest landscapes are crucial repositories of biological diversity, ecosystem services, evolutionary potential and spiritual awe. Until such time as Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace and other environmental organizations commit themselves to a complete cessation of industrial development in the world's remaining primary and old-growth forests, they are legitimate targets for protest as well. Supposed forest defenders appeasing ancient forest logging will be confronted and stopped.
To achieve meaningful success that maximally improves prospects for global forest and ecological sustainability, the forest conservation movement must work for full protection for all remaining ancient forests, the only exception being small-scale eco-forestry activities by indigenous and local peoples traditionally dependent upon these forest habitats. Logging ancient forests protects nothing, and it will be ended, even if it means a messy and unseemly internecine battle in the environmental movement.
g.b.
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RELAYED TEXT STARTS HERE:
ITEM #1
Title: World Bank admits to failures in protecting Congo's
rainforests: official 'watchdog' to investigate
Source: Rainforest Foundation Press Release
Date: March 8, 2006
Information released today by the World Bank reveals that it has failed to ensure proper protection of the environment and local peoples in its programmes to 'develop' the vast rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are the second largest on Earth after the Amazon [1] .
The revelations come following a preliminary investigation by the World Bank Inspection Panel, the official independent watchdog agency. According to the report of the Panel [2]:
* the Bank has acknowledged that it did not properly apply its own internal 'safeguard policies', which are designed to ensure that it does not harm the environment and local peoples [3];
* the Bank claims it was not 'aware of the existence of 'Pygmy' communities' in areas that would be affected by its projects, but that it would now develop a plan to ensure that 'Pygmy' people are not harmed by new developments funded by the Bank [3];
* the Bank has acknowledged that it was 'inappropriate' to set targets for the number of new logging concessions that should be allocated by the Congolese government as a result of World Bank projects [4].
The Inspection Panel launched its investigation after a complaint was brought to it by 'Pygmy' communities from the Congo, alleging that the Bank's plans threaten to harm the country's rainforests and destroy the livelihoods of people living there [5]. As a result of its preliminary findings, the Inspection Panel has decided to open a full investigation into the role of the World Bank in Congo's rainforests.
Simon Counsell, Director of the Rainforest Foundation UK, said “The World Bank has finally acknowledged that its activities in the rainforests of the Congo have been flawed and must be improved. This is a major victory for the Pygmy people of the Congo, whose rights and livelihoods could be seriously harmed by inappropriate development of the country's rainforests.”
ENDS
For further information:
Simon Counsell, The Rainforest Foundation UK
t – 0207 251 6345
m – 07941 899 579
e – simonc@rainforestuk.com
Notes:
[1] The World Bank has been supporting the development of new laws for the management of DRC's forests. Under a project entitled 'Emergency Economic and Social Reunification Support project (EESRSP) approved by the Board of the Bank in September 2003, the Bank also intended to support a pilot project to 'zone' Congo's forests into areas for industrial logging, conservation, and community use.
[2] The full report of the Panel is available at:
http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/s-World%20Bank%20Inspection%20Panel%20eligibility%20report
The full response of World Bank management to the complaint is available at:
http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/s-World%20Bank%20Inspection%20Panel%20complaint%20-%20Bank%20management%20response
[3] The Management of the Bank states in its response to the complaint that “with respect to the EESRSP, the Bank was not in full compliance with processing provisions of OP 4.01, and OD 4.20 should have been triggered during project preparation”. (OP 4.01 is the Bank's internal 'Environmental Assessment' policy; OD 4.20 is the Bank's internal Indigenous Peoples' safeguard policy).
[4] The Bank's response to the complaint states that: “OD 4.20 was not triggered because the design of the project as reviewed at concept stage did not reveal the existence of Pygmy communities in project-affected areas”.
[5] The Bank's response to the complaint states that:” “The number of new concessions attributed in a transparent manner” quoted by the [complainants] as a performance indicator for EESRSP does appear in the project documentation but it is not a good indicator of performance and does not reflect the full extent of Bank advice…[Bank] Management will use the opportunity afforded by the Mid-term review of the project in March 2006 to suggest to the Government that this indicator should be replaced with a more appropriate one”.
ITEM #2
Title: Global outcry over falling forests and failing democracy
on Australia’s island state of Tasmania
Source: Rainforest Action Network Press Release
Date: March 6, 2006
Contact: Paul West, Rainforest Action Network (415) 596-6581
San Francisco

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6 Responses

  1. David F Boehm says:

    I am a member of the Friends of Cathedral Grove, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. We have been maintaining a camp in the park for over two years to prevent the B.C. government fallers from removing upwards of 36 giant Douglas firs in order to build a parking lot and the access to it for Park visitors. These trees and other smaller second growth trees on the periphery of the “grove”, provide vital shelter from the Qualicum winds that barrel over the shoulder of Mt. Arrowsmith.We are a tiny voice in the wilderness trying to protect a tiny bit of Primeval forest from administrative desecration. Could you please give us some support by rattling our premier's cage, Gordon Campbell in Victoria BC. Thanks

  2. Jerry33 says:

    Yes this is the last of our lands, our forests, our trees; we must work almost incessantly to not only stop this devastation but indeed see how each of us play a role in our lives and communities, in everything thing that we do, to either detract and contribute to the whole of which we are all a part, including our natural life systems. What habit are you going to change today? Shared betterment is an intention and a choice ahead.

  3. Lynn Price says:

    In response to the post by David F. Boehm (March 8, 2006 03:26 PM):
    Thank you for what you're doing to save the precious forest.
    I suggest that as many people as possible contact Premier Gordon Campbell and “rattle his cage”.
    Here is his contacts:
    Premier Gordon Campbell
    Room 156
    Parliament Buildings
    Victoria, BC
    V8V 1X4
    Fax: 250 387-0087
    Tel: 250 387-1715
    premier@gov.bc.ca
    or
    gordon.campbell.mla@leg.bc.ca
    Maybe we can all write and help to some extent. I know I will be writing.
    Thanks, Lynn Price CA. US

  4. Marcel Sommer says:

    oeps something went wrong.I am not such a whizzkid on the p.c. as Glen Barry.
    I should like to repeat since the last message from my hand was interrupted or disturbed by my four year old daughter:
    If it is like you report about the interaction of protester via the internet and the policymakers (world bank) I congratuyate you, son of a gun.Keep up the good work.

  5. Suze says:

    Many thanks 4 all your hard work.

  6. Dr Nigel Miles says:

    It would be very relelvant for Forests.org do support initiatives given above on Vancouver Island and to keep providing inernet support petitions to preserve what is left if any of the ancient forests in North America as a whole; under your own noses as it seems.

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