World Bank Decries Logging Concession System Should End

A World Bank-funded review of Cambodia’s forestry concessionaires has concluded that none of them should be allowed to continue their industrial logging activities, Global Witness, the country’s former independent forestry monitor, said this week.

The review—the fourth donorfunded study of logging concessions since 2000—lends weight to Global Witness’ long-standing ar­gument that the concession sys­tem has to end, the group said in a statement.

“What is remarkable is not so much this review’s findings as the number of studies required to reiterate the same obvious conclusion,” said Jon Buckrell of Global Witness, which was fired by the government in 2003.

“When will the Cambodian government and its donor partners move from commissioning costly reviews to acting on their findings?” Buckrell added in the statement.

Global Witness—which has long been critical of the World Bank, asserting that it has shown a bias toward the interests of logging companies—urged the bank to review all its forestry programs worldwide to ensure that “the mistakes of Cambodia” are not re­peated elsewhere.

Kimberly Versak, head of the ex­ternal affairs office for the World Bank in Bangkok, said in an e-mail that the bank’s involvement in Cambodia’s forestry re­form—which she said was “extremely challenging”—has been to help the government improve the way the concession system was functioning.

“Given a choice between watch­ing concession companies op­erate in an unrestrained environment or helping to improve the government’s standards and controls over concessionaires, we opted to en­gage to help improve what is a very imperfect environment,” she said.

She maintained that the bank’s involvement has sharply reduced the amount of land under timber concessions in Cambodia as well as the number of logging companies in operation.

Versak said the decision whe­ther to cancel the remaining concessions in Cambodia is up to the government. The World Bank has a team in Cambodia this week meeting with government officials, concessionaires, donors and NGOs to discuss the latest review and any future steps.

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