The World Bank

Background - 30 March, 2007
The World Bank and donor countries play an important role in the rebuilding and economic development of DRC by providing much needed financial aid.

Logging by the French company Coron in Cameroon.

In addition to the World Bank, the DRC's main donor countries are the US, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the European Union, UK, and the Netherlands.

In the DRC forest sector, the World Bank says it's aiming for the promotion of sustainable forest management, increased State revenue, and poverty reduction. Unfortunately, the DRC forest sector reform package proposed by the World Bank and other donors is largely inspired by the forest sector reforms introduced in Cameroon more than a decade ago. The Cameroon experience has shown that the safeguards put in place to ensure protection for the forests were unable to halt corruption and persistent bad governance in the forestry sector.

Moratorium and Legal Review

In 2002, under pressure from the World Bank, the DRC government imposed a moratorium on the awarding, exchange or renewal of logging permits. This moratorium was accompanied by the cancellation of about half of the existing logging permits that existed at the time, removing an area of 25.5 million hectares from possible logging. The World Bank had made financial aid conditional on the moratorium being enacted, but after the money from the World Bank started flowing, the DRC government began to award, exchange and renew permits covering millions of hectares of forest in violation of the moratorium.

In 2005, by presidential decree, the original moratorium was enforced and cannot be lifted before completion of a review of all existing logging permits to determine which permits are legal and which are not.

The legality review of logging permits concerns 156 permits covering over 20 million hectares. A proper review would result in the cancellation of all titles awarded, exchanged or renewed since the beginning of the moratorium in May 2002. However, we are concerned that the review might only result in most existing logging permits being rubber stamped into law and industrial logging will continue to destroy the forest.

Learning the lessons of Cameroon

Under World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) pressure, a new Forestry Code was adopted in Cameroon in 1994. More than ten years later, most of the so-called "productive" forest has been allocated to industrial logging, yet the contribution of the forestry sector to poverty alleviation remains negligible. In logging areas, poverty is very high and basic infrastructure (roads, schools, health facilities, etc.) are often in poor condition.

Despite the safeguards put in place, lack of law enforcement and corruption continue to be defining features of the Cameroon logging sector. In reality, what's being called forestry management is little more than a form of legalised destruction.

Industrial logging in Cameroon is a failed experiment that hasn't fulfilled its promises. The same mistakes should not be made in the DRC. It is urgent that this destructive model of forest management be replaced by sustainable activities that allow for the creation of State revenue while benefiting local communities.

In depth: Forest reform in the DRC: how the World Bank is failing to learn the lessons from Cameroon