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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - World Bank-funded forestry 'blunders' under new scrutiny

World Bank-funded forestry 'blunders' under new scrutiny

Complaints about activities in forestry concessions that it funds has forced the

World Bank to investigate the effectiveness of its Cambodian forestry-related projects.

Late last month the World Bank's board of executive directors authorized an Inspection

Panel to investigate the Bank's five-year Forest Concession Management and Control

Pilot Project in Cambodia (FCMCPP).

In 2000, the Bank launched the $5 million project aimed at reforming Cambodia's forest

concession system through technical assistance to the government's forest administration

and logging concessionaires.

"The bank has clung to the notion that the mafia-style logging syndicates which

have ravaged Cambodia's forests can be reformed," forestry watchdog Global Witness

said in a statement released May 4. "The Inspection Panel provides the opportunity

to hold the bank to account for five years of blunders."

The Inspection Panel is a three-member body created in 1993 to provide an independent

forum for private citizens to voice concerns over World Bank-financed projects.

In 2004, an independent forest sector review concluded that Cambodia's logging concession

system should be abolished. Within two months of the review's release, however, FCMCPP

recommended the government approve six more logging concessions.

Villagers from four of these concessions, represented by NGO Forum, lodged complaints

about the concessionaire's activities to the Bank's Inspection Panel in February

this year.

The villagers lived in or around the concessions, which included both Cherndar and

Timas Resources in Preah Vihear province, Everbright CIG Wood in Kratie and Stung

Treng provinces, and Samraong Wood in Siem Reap and Oddar Meanchey provinces.

Global Witness director Simon Taylor said the bank must, at a minimum, "renounce

its project's endorsement of companies whose operations are a parody of sustainable

forest management."

"Furthermore, it should use this investigation as the basis for a fundamental

revision of its approach to forest management in post-conflict countries," Taylor

said.

World Bank president James Wolfensohn acknowledged the Bank's project had flaws during

a visit to Phnom Penh in February.

"We are taking another look [at the Bank's work on forestry] to see if we have

screwed up," he said.

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