When is a moratorium not a moratorium?

Posted by jamie - 4 May 2007 at 2:00pm - Comments

Forest officials in the DRC are woefully under-resourced

Forest officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo are woefully under-resourced

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...

View the slideshow

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.

Why does Greenpeace support a moratorium but not an end to industrial logging in the DRC? What sort of message does that send to the World Bank and others?

I understand that since the 'moratorium' started around 100 logging contracts covering 15 million hectares have been issued, and many are being legalized in a review subsequently initiated by the World Bank. As you say, the 'moratorium' has failed. Is Greenpeace complicit in this? If so, why?

Greenpeace chairs the international board of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is supposed to certify timber as from sustainable sources. I fail to see how you can ever certify timber derived from industrial logging of virgin ancient forests as 'sustainable' through the FSC. The public is being seriously misled. All industrial logging of virgin forests must surely stop now.

What are you doing Greenpeace? It seems to me you risk losing all credibility in this crucial campaign area.

Sorry but I need to pick you up on several points. As you'll know if you've read our recent report, we've clearly highlighted the failure of industrial logging and the massive environmental and social damage it's causing in the DRC. As a result, we're actively campaigning to protect the Congo rainforest from industrial logging and instead pressing hard for the development of alternative solutions for the 40 million people who depend on this rainforest. We want to make sure this happens as soon as possible.

With regard to the moratorium, we've had nothing to do with its development or implementation. Instead, we've exposed the serious flaws in its execution that have allowed so many logging titles to be issued in breach of the moratorium. Together with other organisations, including those in the DRC, we're pushing the World Bank to use its considerable influence to ensure that all logging titles issued since 2002 are cancelled and that the logging industry is contained.

We want to see the proper enforcement and extension of the moratorium until the DRC's logging industry is cleaned up and a land-use plan put in place which fully involves local communities. All this should allow the breathing space to allow the development of real alternatives to industrial logging.

And while of course we support the FSC's certification scheme in appropriate circumstnaces, as things stand we don't believe that certification is possible in places like the DRC.

web editor
gpuk

This issue is not just happening to Africa, its happening across the globe.
FSC corruption has appeared in Peru http://www.fsc-watch.org/, the US http://www.gapsucks.org/gwa/greenlabel/talkingpoints.html
and its getting worse http://www.rainforestportal.org/issues/2007/07/...

We still stand by the FSC as the only credible global certification system. One of its strengths is that it's an adaptive system which relies on feedback and complaints to work (something not currently shared by any other certification scheme). If you have constructive criticisms about any FSC projects, they'd love to hear from you - go to http://www.fsc.org.

On the Peru case, we've received information about Venao Forestal and it's been forwarded to both FSC and Smartwood to investigate. We'll keep an eye on the issue to make sure it's dealt with promptly and with integrity.

web editor
gpuk

I went on the fsc website and couldn't find a way to ask them anything about deforestation that they might be involved with.

This issue is not just happening to Africa, its happening across the globe. FSC corruption has appeared in Peru http://www.fsc-watch.org/, the US http://www.gapsucks.org/gwa/greenlabel/talkingpoints.html and its getting worse http://www.rainforestportal.org/issues/2007/07/...

We still stand by the FSC as the only credible global certification system. One of its strengths is that it's an adaptive system which relies on feedback and complaints to work (something not currently shared by any other certification scheme). If you have constructive criticisms about any FSC projects, they'd love to hear from you - go to http://www.fsc.org. On the Peru case, we've received information about Venao Forestal and it's been forwarded to both FSC and Smartwood to investigate. We'll keep an eye on the issue to make sure it's dealt with promptly and with integrity. web editor gpuk

I went on the fsc website and couldn't find a way to ask them anything about deforestation that they might be involved with.

The public is being seriously misled. All industrial logging of virgin forests must surely stop now. registry cleaners registry winner review

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a special community that needs a special and careful review from our part. Nowadays is very hard to keep secrets and organizations like Greenpeace should and certainly will take the necesarry methods to make things right again. We should appeal to our human sensibility and try to do our part in the creation of a better and safer world. www.herbal-trust.com.

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