An Open Letter to the World Bank PresidentMr. James D. Wolfensohn
The World Bank
Washington D.C. 20433
Attached is a copy of your letter sent to me on April 3rd 1998, in response to me presenting you with evidence linking industrial logging with the commercialization of the bush meat trade throughout most of Central Africa. You state;
"Preventing the types of abuses you describe is a clear responsibility of the industry, as well as the government authorities concerned."So far we seem to have one much celebrated -albeit not audited- partnership deal and project trying to mitigate the impact of logging on wildlife (this is a deal between CIB and WCS in northern Congo B).
The main problem is that neither the logging company nor the government has accepted financial responsibility for this pilot project. If anything is today very unsustainable in Northern Congo B, it is the fact that the donor and conservation community has to come up with close to US $1 million annually to try to manage poaching and wildlife in LESS THAN HALF of one single concession (500 000 hectares out of 1.2 million held by a German owned outfit which has a tuirnover of some US $50 million a year). A book to be published by the University of California Press, Eating Apes, in early 2004 will outline the contradictions of this approach.
I have just returned from a three-week trip to the DRC where the World Bank appears to be on the front line of assisting with the proposed massive reactivation of the forestry sector. The projections outlined by your lead expert, in an Aide Memoire, are terrifying to say the least, considering that we are looking at the remaining half of the Congo River Basin which has not been affected yet by industrial timber mining.
- The opening up, in form of new logging concessions, of 60 million hectares of primary rain forest.
- A projected annual extraction/mining of some 6-10 million cubic meters, essentially doubling the output from the Central African region.
- An estimated annual 'surface rental tax' income of some US $60 to 360 million.
- An annual industry turn over of some US $1-2 billion. Mostly of course staying in form of profits in some off shore accounts.
- The creation of some 60 000 jobs.
(I was informed that some GEF money would be made available to look at areas such as Lomako and the Bili-Uere region. One already logged out and returned to the government before the war, the other having no value in terms of forestry exploitation).
As for logging sustainably 60 million hectares of primary rain forest, to be opened up within a span of only 5 to 10 years, there are World Bank experts on record stating:
"We are not going to try to define SFM (Sustainable Forest Management) because nobody can agree on it". This is probably more true in Central Africa than anywhere else.I also have a copy of meeting minutes with a World Bank officials being quoted as saying:
"In Central Africa dysfunctional governments have to be considered a given."Putting the above in context with the objective of logging revenue in the end actually resulting in some real poverty alleviation and development, the chance is very high that after most of the really valuable timber has been carted away, the 35 million people, now estimated to depend on these forests, will actually be poorer then they are today.
This will certainly be true as far as the protein from wildlife is concerned. In most these areas there will be no more - under the present projections and proposals.
The Aide Memoire by Mr. Debroux, the Banks lead negotiator and advisor, dated March 2004, makes it clear that the Bank has been involved very actively in the drafting of the new forestry laws which were signed by President Kabila in August of this year.
The word 'faune' or wildlife does not appear a single time. There is certainly no indication that Mr. Debroux or the officials in Kinshasa were aware of your line of thinking, concerning the industry and government having to accept the responsibility for the wildlife management in the concessions. There is no reference of any kind concerning the logging industry having to take full responsibility to actively manage the wildlife in their concessions. (The Aide Memoire seems to suggest that this responsibility will be passed on to the relevant government departments. An approach which has not worked anywhere else, especially considering the CIB/WCS figures which would indicate that all of the 'surface land' tax income might be necessary to try to achieve some real control.)
Mr. Debroux in a personal comment mentioned that this could be added - as an afterthought - in the 'cahiers de charge'.
The Aide Memoire also states:
"La mission a aussi recu copie de plusieurs texts d'application en preparation, et elle apportera ses avis techniques a la demande du gouvernment."As such, it would appear to be a safe assumption that World Bank officials would have also reviewed the Arret Interministeriel signed by two ministers on April 20, 2004 which sets out the new forestry and wildlife utilization taxes and which are based on: "The socio-economic context of the day."
It includes a US $500 sport hunting tax for Mountain Gorillas, a separate one for bonobo, chimps, elephants, okapis etc etc. All this wildlife is offered for 'D'abbatage' (which can be roughly translated at putting down or slaughter") and or for capture and export. The tax list also includes fees for various byproducts such as ivory, rhino horn, skins, teeth, tails, skulls etc.
A tax is fixed for the export of Afromosia timber. Afromosia, I understand, is CITES protected and the DRC has been suspended from CITES and as such no member country would be allowed to import any such timber.
In March 2004 Mr. Debroux estimated the 'Surface logging tax" to bring in between US $60 to 360 million a year, based on Cameroon (where pretty much all the timber is now gone) having a tax of 6 dollars per hectare and neighboring Congo B, which is also being opened up for logging in a big way, having a medium of only US $0.70 per hectare. The Congo tax in this document has been set out as: US $0.50 per hectare or taking Mr. Debroux estimates for an income of US $60 -360 million they are already down to US $30 million, based on opening up some 60 million hectares. (That would not be even half of what would be needed for wildlife management as per the WCS/CIB pilot project).
Reading the three documents, in context with the meeting feedback I received in Kinshasa, it is impossible to not come to the conclusion that top decisions makers, with the advise from the World Bank, have made a conscience decision that Congo's wildlife might become a liability in maximizing the returns from the forestry sector - at least in areas outside the protected parks.
This conclusion was essentially confirmed during a meeting with the former minister of the Environment, who together with the Minister of Finance (said to be a bank appointee) signed this Arret Interministeriel. He stated that elephants were often a problem and a danger as far as the local population was concerned and that the government had to put the well being of the people above that of the animals. When I asked why the gorillas were on the list, he informed me that even the gorillas were a nuisance as far as the local villagers were concerned…
These recent developments are more than just disturbing, they are a clear message that the basics of trying to conserve biodiversity are not understood and not understood by the local officials but possibly also by World Bank experts. We are clearly going backwards, in a country, which offered some hope in the sense that a new approach to industrial logging would have been possible.
Attached is once again the report we prepared after secretly visiting a German logging concession in the DRC, in bonobo habitat, in 1998, as well as the reaction from the logger which shows that they have the capacity to take corrective measures, if the right PR pressure is applied - or if these conditions were enshrined in the laws of the land.
Except it would appear that this is not the view your officials or that of the administration in Kinshasa.
Karl had previously received this from Wolfensohn
Dear Mr. Ammann,
I would like to thank you for bringing to my attention the very grave situation concerning hunting of bonobos in the Siforzal/Danzer logging concession in Central Congo. I was very disturbed by the information provided in your trip report and the accompanying booklet, which certainly makes clear that the issue of unsustainable hunting and bushmeat must be addressed as an integral element of sustainable logging agreements. The situation you describe in which guns, ammunition and transport are all being provided, officially or unofficially, by the company and its employees, is clearly very different from traditional hunting and represents an unsustainable and unacceptable situation.
Preventing these type of abuses you describe is a clear responsibility of the industry, as well as the government authorities concerned. Undoubtedly, the World Bank has an important advocacy role to play. Please be assured that I will raise this issue in our ongoing discussions with the CEO's of logging companies, as well as ensure that its addressed in the context of the Bank's "Forestry Alliance" program and our forestry related operations.
With best wishes
James D. Wolfensohn
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