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Official watchdog condemns World Bank's role in Africa's great rainforest
The Rainforest Foundation recently publicized the findings of a World Bank internal report criticizing the Bank's forest policy in DRC (see the press release on the Rainforest Foundation news website). The following article published in the Guardian summarizes the report (read the entire article here).
The World Bank encouraged foreign companies to destructively log the world's second largest forest, endangering the lives of thousands of Congolese Pygmies, according to a report on an internal investigation by senior bank staff and outside experts. The report by the independent inspection panel also accuses the bank of misleading Congo's government about the value of its forests and of breaking its own rules. Congo's rainforests are the second largest in the world after the Amazon, locking nearly 8% of the planet's carbon and having some of its richest biodiversity. Nearly 40 million people depend on the forests for medicines, shelter, timber and food. The report into the bank's activities in Democratic Republic of Congo since 2002 follows complaints made two years ago by an alliance of 12 Pygmy groups. The groups claimed that the bank-backed system of awarding vast logging concessions to companies to exploit the forests was causing "irreversible harm." It will be discussed at board level in the World Bank within weeks and may lead to a complete rethinking of how forestry in the DRC is practised.
When the bank moved back into Congo in 2002, after years of war which cost up to 4 million lives, it said industrial forestry could contribute most strongly to the country's recovery. In its rush to reform the economy it devised new forestry laws, divided the county into zones and aimed to create a favourable climate for industrial logging. But although the bank is legally committed to protecting the environment, and trying to alleviate poverty, the panel found that the policies it imposed on the Congo were having the opposite social and environmental effects:
An area of 600,000 square kilometres (232,000 square miles) of forest was earmarked for logging companies.
The bank failed to address critical social and environmental issues.
It ignored between 250,000 and 600,000 Pygmies believed to be living in the Congolese forests, even though their presence was well known and documented.
It put the Pygmies in serious potential harm.
Posted By Anne-Sophie Samjee at 11:18am on October 04, 2007
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