Here's some good news in the fight to protect the second largest rainforest on Earth, as Olam - a major trading company - finds its World Bank funding cut, after we revealed their involvement in illegal logging in the Congo Basin Forest.
Forest on the banks of the Congo river system, Equatorial province, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Only a couple of weeks ago, we wrote to the World Bank's private
arm, the International Finance Corporation, highlighting its
investment in Olam International, a Singapore-based global
We pointed out that Olam was trading in illegally logged timber
in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
This week the International Finance Corporation has decided to
sell its stake in Olam.
Olam's involvement in illegal timber trade was first detailed in
Carving up the Congo report published earlier this year. The
report illustrated how Olam was holding forest land in the Congo
granted in breach of a moratorium on the granting of new logging
titles, which the World Bank itself had helped to establish.
The report also described how Olam was sourcing timber from
destructive and illegal operations through de-facto subcontracting
agreements with third-party suppliers involved in illegal logging.
While Olam has subsequently returned logging titles obtained in
breach of the moratorium, it continues to trade in destructive and
The Congo Basin Forest constitutes the second largest rainforest
on Earth, storing important amounts of carbon and providing
livelihoods for tens of millions of people. The story of logging in
the Congo forests, however, is a story of corruption, environmental
havoc and social injustice.
Logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is completely
out of control. Meaningful law enforcement and government control
are non-existent. Social conflict is omnipresent in logging
concessions where the needs of local communities clash with the
rush for profit by international companies.
This move by the International Finance Corporation should send a
strong signal to all those investors and companies involved in the
destruction of the Congo rainforests. It should also serve as a
warning to donors, such as the German and the French governments,
who are currently considering financial support for large logging
companies in the DRC. The World Bank must address the serious
shortcomings in its programmes in the DRC - which have been
identified by its own Inspection Panel.
As delegates in Bali negotiate the future of our global climate
and our forests - the protection of which is a key solution to
climate change - rainforest destruction in Africa continues
unabated - but the International Finance Corporation's action
points towards a window of opportunity in the DRC. The
international community needs to help the country develop
alternatives that benefit communities and reduce poverty, and it
needs to do this now!