World Bank is contributing to destruction of world’s forests

Apr 13, 2005

A report finds that programmes funded by the World Bank Group are causing destruction of the world’s remaining forests

A new independent report published today finds that programmes funded by the World Bank Group are causing destruction of the world’s remaining forests and harming poor people dependent on forests for their survival.

The report - entitled ‘Broken Promises’ [1] - says that the Bank has failed to implement its own Forest ‘Safeguard’ Policy, adopted in 2002, and that not one of the conditions the Bank promised to fulfil has been met [2].

The report finds that:

§ The World Bank’s private sector and insurance arms known as the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency – (MIGA) have not adopted the new Forest Policy;

§ The IFC has pushed ahead a raft of dubious projects, all of which threaten forests and forest peoples, notably in the Brazilian Amazon and Indonesia;

§ There are no mechanisms to address forests and forest peoples under programmatic loans, such as ‘Structural Adjustment Credits’;

§ There is a serious lack of transparency in the Bank’s External Advisory Group which is meant to provide independent advice on the application of the Bank’s Forest Policy;

§ So-called ‘Community Forest Management’ projects in India, meant to alleviate poverty, have ignored World Bank safeguard policies and trampled the rights of indigenous peoples;

§ Policy changes to promote industrial logging in the Congo Basin have been pushed through with the assistance of the World Bank without required public consultation and without measures to secure local community rights;

§ High profile initiatives in Cambodia to stamp out forestry corruption have floundered for lack of Bank commitment;

§ Projects to promote carbon markets have despoiled landscapes and ruined livelihoods;

§ Conservation projects funded through the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the World Bank have imperilled traditional livelihoods and marginalised communities.

“In spite of all its past promises, the World Bank continues to be a major actor in the destruction of forests, and is pushing forest peoples into dispossession and poverty”, said Ricardo Carrere from the World Rainforest Movement. “The Bank has blatantly breached its own policies regarding forest conservation and forest peoples’ rights”.

Broken Promises also exposes how the Bank’s involvement in forestry violates its stated mission to ‘fight poverty’ and promote sustainable development. Simon Counsell, Director of the Rainforest Foundation UK said

“The Bank appears to have learned nothing from its disastrous forays into the forests of countries such as Cameroon and Gabon, and is now on course to facilitate the destruction of the world's second largest rainforest, that of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Bank's plans for DRC’s forests are likely to damage or destroy the livelihoods of tens of millions of the world's poorest people, trample on the rights of indigenous forest people, and promote conflict and corruption along the way.

The Bank’s management must closely investigate how its staff could have made such appalling mistakes”.

– ends –


[1] ‘Broken Promises: How World Bank Group policies and practice fail to protect forests and forest peoples’ rights’ will be issued in Washington, DC, on the 14th of April 2005, and will be available thereafter on the websites listed below. Advance copies are available to bona fide journalists.

[2] In 2002, the World Bank’s new ‘Forests Strategy’ and Operational Policy on Forests were adopted, under a volley of criticism from civil society and indigenous peoples, who found that their key demands were far from met. In response to this criticism, the Bank’s Board of Directors only approved the controversial new Forests Policy with a number of conditions to be met by the Bank.

For more information, please contact

Jon Buckrell Global Witness +44 (0) 207 272 6731

Ricardo Carrere World Rainforest Movement +598 2 413 2989

Marcus Colchester Forest Peoples Programme +44 (0) 1608 652 893

Simon Counsell Rainforest Foundation-UK +44 (0) 207 251 6345

Liz Chidley Down to Earth

Korinna Horta Environmental Defense +1 201 387 3500

Jutta Kill Sinkswatch +44 (0) 1608 652 895

Ben Pearson CDMWatch

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