Two sustainable development advocacy groups have criticized the World Bank for refusing to investigate complaints against its Liberian forestry project.
In a Feb. 8 statement, Liberia’s Sustainable Development Institute and U.K.-based Global Witness said the bank “has turned its back on forest-dependent communities in Liberia” by declining to look into claims that the project was “helping to parcel out the country’s tropical forests to companies that lack the necessary expertise or finances to operate and have, in many cases, broken the country’s forestry laws.”
The two organizations, which presented the complaints to the bank last year on behalf of the affected communities, added: “Rather than playing a positive role in the future of Liberia’s forests, the World Bank is now central to their destruction.”
According to a press release issued Feb. 4, the bank said its executive directors agreed with the conclusion of the Liberia Development Forestry Sector Management Project’s inspection panel that there was no need to launch a probe on the issues raised by the groups.
SDI and Global Witness said the bank assured them that it will address their concerns by following these up with the management of its Liberian program. But the two said such a pledge was not enough. They urged the bank to insist that the Liberian government not award any forest-related contracts until the sector’s problems have been resolved, ensure forest-dependent communities have the capacity to negotiate fair deals with logging firms, and carry out a comprehensive study on the best use of the country’s forest over the long term.
“At the moment, the Liberian people can’t be sure the Bank will take the steps necessary to fix the problems it has helped create. The bank must urgently take action to make sure matters don’t get any worse by putting pressure on the Liberian government to ensure Liberia’s forest-dependent communities get a fair deal,” Jonathan Yiah of SDI said.
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