Two weeks ago, the DRC provincial authorities seized illegal
timber shipments from OLAM International in the remote province of
Bandundu, and the area's Forestry Minister Coco Pembe accused the
company of trading illegal timber which had been cut by local
companies whose logging permits have expired.
In 2005, OLAM was awarded logging titles in the area, covering
over 300,000 hectares, in violation of a 2002 moratorium on the
allocation of new logging titles, and the DRC's Forest Code .
Ironically, these laws were introduced with the support of the
World Bank in an attempt to tackle uncontrolled logging in the DRC.
Olam's titles are currently not being logged, as they are subject
to a legal review.
The IFC invests significantly in OLAM. In December 2003, the IFC
invested US $15 million in the company and, during 2004, a partial
guarantee of a further $US 50 million was approved. As of Fiscal
Year 2006, the IFC held US$ 11.2 millions in OLAM loans and
Despite evidence to the contrary, the World Bank denies any IFC
involvement in the DRC forest sector, stating on their website that
"the Bank does not fund logging anywhere in Africa and our main
advice to the Government of DRC is not to expand industrial
logging." "This is an example of the World Bank Groups's appalling
double standards when it comes to using international finance to
help save the DRCs forests. While the left hand of the Bank claims
to save the Congo rainforests, its right hand helps destroy them."
said Susanne Breitkopf, forest campaigner at Greenpeace. "Rather
than financing the plunder of the world's second largest
rainforest, the World Bank should urgently invest in strengthening
forest law enforcement in the DRC, to control the wanton and
illegal destruction being perpetrated by logging companies."
The seizures of illegal timber from OLAM follow recent
revelations about the group's illegal activities in the DRC. In
April 2007, Greenpeace published a damning report, detailing how
OLAM trades in timber from third parties whose destructive logging
operations cause social conflicts, massive environmental damage and
significant loss of state revenue.
In May, Greenpeace wrote to the IFC asking that it divest from
OLAM on the basis that the group's existing logging titles -
awarded illegally after a moratorium on new titles had been put in
place in 2002 - should be considered illegal and should be
cancelled as a result of a current legal review of all existing
cutting permits. This review process has itself been initiated and
funded by the World Bank. At the end of July, the IFC rejected this
request, and defended OLAM's practices, claiming that the group
only works with suppliers who hold valid logging permits that
OLAM's operations "have formed part of IFC's supervision process
and will continue to do so" and praising the company for its
"policy commitment to sustainable forest management",
OLAM's operations have already faced legal issues elsewhere in
Africa, and in 2004 it was fined $ 20,000 by the U.S. Commodity
Futures Trading Commission for illegal practices in the US
Greenpeace says the dispute raises questions about the
effectiveness of IFC's Performance Standards, which claim to set
new international standards in sustainable banking, and which have
been adopted by a number of private banks since its launch in
Greenpeace's Susanne Breitkopf concluded: "The IFC must perform
due diligence of its clients and projects. The World Bank needs to
clean up its act in the DRC. It needs to ensure its funds are used
to improve governance and to alleviate poverty not to fund forest
destruction. The World Bank has talked about capacity building in
the DRC forest sector since 2002, but five years on, capacity at
the local level is still zero and international logging companies
continue to operate with impunity."
The provincial administration has virtually no means to control
the activities of international logging companies in the forests of
Bandundu. The few forestry law enforcers in place lack basic
transport and equipment as well as adequate training. Inspectors
are tasked with patrolling thousands of hectares using bicycles,
and their offices are often just huts equipped with nothing but an
old manual typewriter.
Other contacts: Susanne Breitkopf, Greenpeace U.S on: +1 202 489 2092 Brussels: Stephan Van Praet Greenpeace International on: + 32 496161580
Notes: 1. The Congo forest is the world's second largest rainforest after the Amazon. In the DRC alone, an estimated 40 million people depend on the forests for their livelihoods.Greenpeace is calling for the cancellation of all logging titles issued since May 2002 and for the moratorium on new logging titles to be extended and enforced until the sector is under control and a land-use plan that includes the participation of local communities is fully in place.2. The Greenpeace report 'Carving Up The Congo' can be downloaded by going to http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/forests/africa/congo-report
Exp. contact date: 2007-10-31 00:00:00