The World Bank and the Congo Forests

REDD future or greenwash?

Feature story - 3 December, 2009
On 3d December 2009, just a few days before the Copenhagen Climate Conference, Greenpeace, Global Witness and the Rainforest Fundation delivered an open letter to the World Bank criticising its role in the forest sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo - home to the second largest rainforest in the world.

The World Bank should be funding forest protection - not destruction.

The Copenhagen Conference represents the best chance of setting up aglobal deal to prevent greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation through anadequate REDD[i]mechanism. But international efforts will be wasted if past lessons fromprevious World Bank-led reforms go unheeded. The forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) hang in thebalance.

The letter denounces the failure of Congo's multinational loggingcompanies to adhere to basic standards of legality and transparency whilecontinuing to flout the rights of local communities.

  • In January 2009, a "legal review" of logging titles in the DRC was completed. The World Bank states on its website that cancelled titles are "now void" and "logging operations had to stop." However, Greenpeace and other civil society groups have evidence that certain companies have continued their operations in violation of national law.
  • In September 2009, local women in Equateur province blocked passage of logging trucks of Sodefor, a subsidiary of Congo's largest logging company, the Liechtenstein-based Nordsüdtimber Group, protesting the broken promises of the company.
  • Our exchanges with around 50 representatives from forest-dependent communities around Bumba in Equateur Province on November 16th and 17th again revealed that local people are systematically being kept in the dark about the fate of their forests.

A 2007 report[ii]by the World Bank Inspection Panel found the Bank had over-estimated therevenues of industrial logging in the Congo and had ignored its adverse impactson livelihoods and biodiversity. In the same year a report co-authored by Bankexperts concluded that "there is little evidence that [industrial timberproduction in Africa] has lifted rural populations out of poverty orcontributed in other meaningful ways to local and national development."[iii]The World Bank continues to spearhead forest reform in the DRC, but itsprograms have so far failed to address any of the main problems plaguing thesector: corruption, impunity, and the exploitation of local people, who aredenied even the most basic information about the logging of their forests.

Through its Forest CarbonPartnership Facility (FCPF) the Bank is assisting the DRC in preparing for afuture REDD mechanism. Greenpeace fears that precious REDD money will end upsupporting so-called "sustainable forest management" by logging instead offorest protection and community development.

The World Bank and other donors should help fund alternatives able todeliver results for the forests, the people and the climate.

In the short-term, resourcesshould be re-directed to mapping the forests and their multiple use with theparticipation of local people, setting aside priority areas for protection fromlarge scale commercial activities, and supporting adequate community forestprojects for real sustainable management. Resources are also needed tostrengthen the enforcement capacities of the DRC administration at all levelsin order to bring companies and small-scale loggers under control.

The World Bank stands at acrossroads. It has to date not replied to calls from NGOs to exclude supportfor logging and plantations from REDD. Will it continue business as usual orwill it back solutions that benefitpeople, forests and the climate?


[i] ReducedEmissions from Deforestation and Degradation

[ii] WorldBank Inspection Panel, Report No. 40746 - ZR, "Investigation Report DEMOCRATICREPUBLIC OF CONGO: Transitional Support for Economic Recovery Grant (TSERO)(IDA Grant No. H 1920-DRC) and Emergency Economic and Social ReunificationSupport Project (EESRSP) (Credit No. 3824-DRC and Grant No. H 064-DRC),"31August 2007

[iii] Forests in Post-Conflict Democratic Republicof Congo: Analysis of a Priority Agenda. A collective report by the World Bank,Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Centre International deRecherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), African WildlifeFoundation (AWF), Conseil National des ONG de Développement du Congo (CNONGD),Conservation International (CI), Groupe de Travail Forêts (GTF), LigueNationale des Pygmées du Congo (LINAPYCO), Netherlands Development Organisation(SNV), Réseau des Partenaires pour l'Environnement au Congo (REPEC), WildlifeConservation Society (WCS), Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), WorldAgroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), 2007.

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