Global Witness (London)

11 February 2013

Central Africa: World Bank Refuses to Review Support for Logging in Tropical Rainforests Despite Criticism From Its Own Independent Evaluators

press release

Washington, 11th February 2013 — The World Bank Board of Directors has blocked a call by independent evaluators to review the outcomes of the Bank's support for industrial-scale logging in tropical rainforests. The evaluators concluded in a report published last Friday that such operations have not been effective in reducing poverty, the World Bank's core mandate, or achieving sustainability. Despite these findings, the Board voted unanimously against a recommendation that the Bank review the effectiveness of its support for tropical forest logging.

"The very survival of tropical forests and the way of life of people who live in them is under threat, and the World Bank is in denial about its contribution to the problem," said Rick Jacobsen of Global Witness. "As a public institution tasked with reducing poverty, the World Bank should take very seriously its own evaluators' finding that its approach is not helping vulnerable forest communities. It's time for the Bank to stop defending destructive logging practices in the name of development benefits that never materialize."

The Bank has been instrumental in putting into place policies in many tropical countries that result in widespread logging of tropical rainforests. Yet according to a growing body of evidence, industrial-scale logging contributes to tropical deforestation while doing little to improve the lives of forest-dependent communities and indigenous peoples. Corruption and lack of government oversight further aggravate the problem. In the countries of Africa's Congo Basin, home to the world's second largest rainforest next to the Amazon, law enforcement in the logging sector is ineffective and corruption and cronyism are widespread. Recent reports from a government-appointed independent observer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, found that many international logging companies are carrying out illegal activities.

"After 10 years of World Bank-led reforms in the DRC, roughly 150,000 km2 of rainforest remain in the hands of poorly regulated international logging companies, while communities are once again being left behind," said Susanne Breitkopf of Greenpeace International. The reform process in the DRC has been marred with irregularities and widely criticized; meanwhile, a law that would support community management of forests has been stalled for years, and the Bank is financing a forest zoning process that is likely to earmark huge areas of rainforest for industrial logging.

While the Bank fiercely rejected the evaluators' criticism of its support for industrial-scale logging in the tropics, it accepted seven other recommendations made in the report. Two of these focused on the need to provide more support for forest-dependent communities to allow them to directly manage their own forest resources. The Bank has not yet indicated how it plans to implement these recommendations. Breitkopf remains skeptical: "In order to reduce poverty and deforestation, the Bank needs to put land rights and community forest management at front and center of its projects, rather than making them cosmetic add-ons."

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