British MP condemns World Bank-backed plans for rainforest logging



Tuesday 14th December 2004: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

British MP condemns World Bank-backed plans for rainforest logging
in the Congo

Member of Parliament Bob Blizzard (Waveney) yesterday said in a Westminster Hall debate that "there was no chance at all" that a World Bank-backed plan to 'develop' the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which are the second largest on Earth, would bring any benefits to impoverished local people. Instead, the planned expansion of the timber industry would, the MP said, damage the livelihoods of some of the poorest people on Earth, including those of local 'Pygmies'.

The Parliamentary debate followed a visit to Congo's rainforests by members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Great Lakes and Genocide Prevention. The Group also yesterday announced the publication of a new report, "To elections and beyond" , which details the MPs' visit to DRC and sets out their recommendations on the future of the country's vast rainforests [2]. The report calls for the continuation of a moratorium on the issuing of any new logging concessions in DRC's forests.

Oona King, Founder and Chair of the APPG, said "We learned that nine contracts have been awarded to private logging companies by the Environment Ministry since the moratorium. They should simply be annulled and the moratorium maintained" [3]. Oona King called for sound management of DRC's natural resources which, she said, "was a prerequisite to enduring peace and prosperity in the country".

Responding to the debate, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Chris Mullin, said that he would draw the attention of the World Bank to the concerns raised by the Members of Parliament.

Simon Counsell, Director of the Rainforest Foundation UK, said: "We welcome the UK Government's commitment to raising concerns with the World Bank about the future of Congo's rainforests. As a major shareholder in the Bank, the Government has a responsibility to ensure that UK taxpayers' money will not be spent on destroying Congo's rainforests and wrecking local peoples' livelihoods."


For further information, please contact:

Simon Counsell, Rainforest Foundation UK

Tel: +44 (020) 7251 6345

Email: simonc@rainforestuk.com

More information about Congo's rainforests and the work of the Rainforest Foundation can be found at: http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.com

Notes to Editors

[1] MPs Bob Blizzard and Oona King visited the Democratic Republic of Congo in October, hosted by the Rainforest Foundation. The All Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region & Genocide Prevention (APPG) comprises 148 MPs and Peers from the UK Parliament. It was founded by its current Chair. Oona King MP. Today, it is the leading forum in the UK Parliament for discussion and critical analysis of issues affecting the Great Lakes Region: Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Northern Uganda.

[2] The report is available from the website of the All-Party Parliamentary Group, at: http://www.appggreatlakes.org

The report also recommends that the World Bank, in conjunction with the Ministry of environment and local civil society organisation, send monitors into the forest to ensure that local people are consulted and acknowledged as residents. It also calls for international donors, the UK Government's Department for International Development (DfID) especially, to fund a comprehensive study in order to provide an estimation of the value of the forest, based not only on the commercial worth of its timber, but also on the value of forest products such as animal products, vegetable foods, building materials, medicinal plants and fuelwood, as well as ecological functions and services such as watershed maintenance and biodiversity protection.

[3] At the November "Forum on Forests and Nature Conservation" organised by the Congolese government in and the World Bank in Kinshasa , international and local NGOs as well as Congolese civil society called for the moratorium on all new logging concessions to be maintained until such time as strict conditions were complied with by the Congolese government.


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Dezember 2004

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