Hi all, I've just received this from a friend overseas - thought it might
be of interest. T.
> > The European Commission: special report
> Paul Brown, Environment correspondent
> Monday May 29, 2000
> A devastating report about the destruction of tropical forests by
> multinational companies has been suppressed for three years by the European
> commission and World Wide Fund for Nature.
> The report named companies prepared to bribe and bully their way to
> lucrative logging concessions. It also blamed the International Monetary
> Fund and the World Bank for inducing countries to sell their forests for a
> quick cash return to pay off debts to western countries.
> The European commission, which paid the researchers nearly £200,000
> for the work, was fearful of the repercussions if they named names and
> asked for a second version with the names taken out - but even this version
> was watered down.
> A third version still makes clear that EU funds being poured into
> developing countries to ensure forests are carefully managed are frequently
> being wasted. Forest laws were enacted but no action taken.
> The well-respected authors from the World Resources Institute and WWF
> said they were so disturbed by what they found that they recommended a
> moratorium on all further logging in 11 countries - Cameroon, Gabon, Congo
> (Brazzaville), Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and the
> Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa; Belize, Surinam and Guyana
> in the Caribbean rim; and Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in the
> South Pacific rim. This should last until bribery scandals had been
> investigated and proper environmental standards enforced, they said.
> They also recommended an end to EU aid until these issues were
> addressed - but no action has been taken. The report says: "The new
> investments [by Asian multinational companies] have been concentrated in
> countries with generally weak or outdated environmental and social laws and
> little enforcement capacity. The governments of these countries are easy
> pickings to foreign investors as they have weak forest services, poor
> monitoring capacity, inefficient tax collection and auditing capacity, and
> in some cases widespread bribery and corruption.
> "Many of the countries are suffering severe economic difficulties
> with large foreign debts, high inflation and unemployment. In the majority
> of countries studied, decision making is controlled by a small group of
> powerful people or clans within the government that look at primary forests
> of their country as a short-term source of personal revenue, not as a
> productive ecosystem which can generate social, economic and ecological
> benefits on the long term for the entire country and its people."
> > The Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Cameroon and Belize were all
> named as suffering large-scale corruption.
> "In some countries administrative procedures facilitate widespread
> corruption. Senior officials in countries such as Papua New Guinea have
> been shown to be taking decisions to award logging rights in exchange for
> The report says although European companies have in the past indulged
> in bad practices the scale of the new incursions was much larger and that:
logging itself is often very careless, with high collateral damage to
> the surrounding forest. The roads built to extract the timber often
> hundreds of kilometres long create access to frontier areas that facilitate
> the entry of commercial hunts, farmers, miners and others who cause further
> environmental damage." The companies frequently end up in violent clashes
> with local people and native tribes.
> It blames the main donors to these countries - the World Bank, Japan,
> the EU, France, Germany, the UK and the US - for failing to enforce their
> own rules to promote forest conservation and responsible management. In
> fact the World Bank and IMF make things worse by imposing monetary reform
> on the countries, the report says. These countries are urged to allow in
> multinational companies and governments are urged to sell their forests for
> cash to pay back debts.
> The report says if substantial action is not taken soon by
> governments, donor agencies and investors, as well as environmental and
> social pressure groups, much of the remaining virgin primary forests in the
> Caribbean rim, Central Africa and Pacific will be lost within five to 10
> years, due to the expansion of unsustainable logging operations.
> The original report was completed in 1997 and the EU cleared a
> twice-revised version for publication, printing 5,000 copies. Its press
> launch in July last year was blocked by the WWF, some of whose employees
> had carried out the research. The organisation feared that some of the
> governments concerned, particularly Malaysia, would close down WWF offices.
> A weaker version of the report has now been prepared and, because the
> European commission refused to foot the bill, the WWF pulped the original
> 5,000 copies and has paid to print 2,000 of the latest version. The
> organisation claimed in a statement to the Guardian that it had to correct
> some "inaccuracies" and hopes this new version will be published in July.
> Expert authors
> The Guardian has seen the first three versions of the report -
> including the original draft that details the names of companies and
> individuals involved in bribery scandals. The main authors of the report
> are Nigel Sizer, an expert for the World Resources Institute in Washington
> and Dominiek Plouvier, a forestry consultant who works for WWF in Belgium.
> All their work was peer-reviewed in the countries concerned and by other
> forestry experts before being submitted.
> Mr Sizer said: "Of course I was deeply disappointed that the report
> was not published. A few things were corrected in the peer review process.
> We were very careful about the conclusions we drew in the report. The
> commission was concerned and asked some of the names to be removed but I
> stand by everything that appeared in the drafts. My reputation and that of
> the Institute depends on getting things right. Lack of accuracy was not the
> reason the report was withheld."
> A commission spokesman said: "We asked originally for some of the
> names to be removed and for some revisions but were satisfied with the
> later versions of the report. It was WWF that intervened to prevent
> publication last year. The new version of the report has now been delivered
> by them and will be distributed to interested parties when a list had been
> drawn up." Officials of the commission would now consider the report's
> WWF's senior forest officer, Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud, said WWF had been
> anxious to name names but was concerned that many of the companies were
> Asian and the organisation did not want to appear to be Asian-bashing.
> After the Asian financial crisis the report was held up for updating.
> Papua New Guinea
> If the forests were sustainably managed and harvested, it is
> estimated that the annual income to the country could be as much as £2bn.
> However massive corruption in the issue of timber permits, failure to
> monitor exports, and low royalties and taxes have reduced government
> returns. Environmental and social impacts have been serious and well
> Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000
> > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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