It's not a trick question, and the answer is simple: when a moratorium is failing to stop the problem it was originally designed to address, then it's not much of a moratorium at all. There's one in place right now in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that is supposed to help prevent the destruction of the country's rainforest, and yet it has been repeatedly breached until the moratorium itself is practically worthless.
A journey up the Congo
Natalia Truchi visited the Congo in March 2007. Greenpeace organised the expedition to give journalists and politicians a real insight into the destruction and injustice related to the logging industry in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is her story...
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It was laid down by the DRC government in 2002 so that no further logging contracts would be issued and existing ones wouldn't be renewed or extended. This was done at the behest of the World Bank: as the largest development donor to the country, it gets a big say in how things are run.
The intentions were good, as its purpose was to restrict the expansion of industrial logging and pave the way for more protected areas. But a combination of corruption and a lack of enforcement means the moratorium has failed, and large areas of rainforest are still being signed over to logging companies to exploit as they see fit. Meanwhile, very few new protected areas have been created.
The bank claims its core principles are to alleviate poverty while promoting good governance and environmental protection, and their own website trumpets loudly how they do indeed "promote socially... and environmentally responsible practices" but our investigations, conducted as part of the research for our Congo report, make it clear that this isn't the case.
Moratoria are only as good as the institutions enforcing them and the one in the DRC is just not working. Corruption is endemic and very little money is available to enforce the law, so the bottom line is that unless the World Bank helps the DRC government to stop the sell off of these rainforests, they'll soon disappear under the chainsaw.
The latest attempt to sort things out is a review of 156 logging titles granted in the DRC, covering an area roughly the size of the UK, to assess whether they meet certain legal criteria. But our research again demonstrated huge flaws and titles for nearly 70 per cent of that area were issued since the 2002 so are, unsurprisingly, in breach of the moratorium.
So much depends on the Congo rainforest - millions of people, a wealth of unique and endangered species, not to mention the stability of the global climate. The forest in turn depends on the bank getting its act together and standing by its principles. An excellent first step would be to make sure that the moratorium is properly enforced and extended well into the future, but will the bank be up to the challenge? We'll see.