World Rainforest Movement

World Bank to log primary rainforests

On 30th October, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a new Forests Policy. After one of the longest and most controversial consultation processes the Bank has ever carried out, the revised policy was pushed through in two days of unprecedentedly strong debates, despite objections from some governments. Although the final text of the policy has yet to be officially released, the main elements are already clear. Reversing the 1991 policy which had proscribed World Bank funding of logging in primary moist tropical forests, the new policy is instead meant to prevent all Bank operations from causing ‘significant’ damage to ‘critical forests’ , while forestry projects are in addition to be subject to certification.

Most NGOs had called for retaining the proscription on old growth logging and extending it to boreal, temperate and tropical dry forests. They are deeply concerned that lack of clarity, about how much damage is ‘significant’ and in the definition of ‘critical’ forests, will allow many destructive projects to go ahead. The lack of effective safeguards to protect the rights of vulnerable forest peoples is another major NGO concern. Protections offered to forest-dwellers in forestry projects have not been extended to forest-dwellers affected by non-forestry lending. The new policy also relies on the procedures of the existing Natural Habitats policy which, some critics claim, actually does allow critical habitats to be destroyed, at the discretion of the Bank’s Regional Vice-Presidents.

One of the issues longest debated at the Board was whether this policy should apply to Structural Adjustment and Programmatic loans, which now make up over a third of World Bank lending. The new policy does not apply to such loans but a compromise agreement was reached at the Board, requiring the Regional Vice-Presidencies to get technical opinions on any such loans that might cause ‘significant’ damage to forests. This requirement will not be written into the Policy, however. In view of the controversial nature of the new policy, the Board also required an independent review of the implementation of the new policy in three years time.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *