WORLD RAINFOREST MOVEMENT MOVIMIENTO MUNDIAL POR LOS BOSQUES
International Secretariat Maldonado 1858, Montevideo, Uruguay E-mail: email@example.com Web page: http://www.wrm.org.uy Editor: Ricardo Carrere *********************************************************************
================================= W R M B U L L E T I N 61 August 2002 - English edition
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THE FOCUS OF THIS ISSUE: THE JOHANNESBURG SUMMIT
The World Summit on Sustainable Development will soon meet in Johannesburg, South Africa and we have therefore decided to focus this WRM bulletin entirely on this event. In this way we aim at providing relevant information and analysis to both those who will be directly participating at the Summit and those who will not, so as to generate more public awareness leading to increased pressure on governments to make them fulfil the commitments agreed upon ten years ago at the Earth Summit held in Brazil.
In this issue:
* OUR VIEWPOINT
- The fox in charge of the hen house
* HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
- Forest peoples: A ray of hope - Community Forest Management: A feasible and necessary alternative
* A DESTRUCTIVE PRESENT
- The causes of deforestation and those responsible for it
* THE TROUBLE-MAKERS
- The Greening of Corporations - The International Monetary Fund: Funding deforestation - World Bank: The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing - World Bank: At the forefront of carbon trading - WTO: Who's common future? - FAO's "forests" or how to cheat at patience
* EARTH SUMMIT COMMITMENTS
- The alternative forest treaty: NGOs complied with their commitments
* VOICES FOR THE FORESTS AT WSSD
- Selection of organized civil society opinions regarding forests
*********************************************************** * OUR VIEWPOINT ************************************************************
- The fox in charge of the hen house
Ten years ago, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit) took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, initiating a process that will be continued in the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), that will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August through 7 September.
Differently from the expectations raised ten years ago by the Rio conference, nothing enables us to foresee that this new summit will lead to serious commitments to address the forest crisis. The clauses referring to forests in the Draft Implementation Plan agreed on at the last WSSD preparatory meeting, may be qualified, in the best case, as pathetic. Among them, it is worth mentioning that:
* Not a single reference is made to the underlying causes of deforestation
Anyone involved in the forest issue knows that "poor management practices" are not the causes at the root of forest destruction and degradation. When they exist, these practices are in fact a consequence of other, underlying causes --e.g. foreign debt, imposition of economic policies geared towards exports, transnational investments, international trade, excessive consumption by the countries of the North, unjust land tenure patterns, etc. In spite of the fact that all these causes have been identified by the governments and international agencies which have engaged themselves to address them, the draft work plan ignores them completely. On ignoring the central problem in diagnosing the disease, the plan already starts off by being totally inadequate to address the problem of forest conservation.
* Insistence is placed on the promotion of tree monocultures, defined as "planted forests."
The draft work plan insists on calling plantations, "forests" and on assigning them the same social and environmental benefits as forests. However, the truth is that large-scale tree plantations generate poverty, increase inequality, affect food security, deplete water and soil resources, and drastically reduce biological diversity, only to mention a few of their more evident effects. For this reason, the simple fact that the draft plan insists on calling them "forests" is another bad sign regarding its suitability for the conservation of forests.
* Insistence is placed on the solution of technology transfer and assignation of financial resources from the North as part of the answer.
As if the problem could be solved by pouring in more money and more technology! In most of the cases it is precisely due to the availability of financial and technological resources from the North that the forests of the South are being destroyed. It would be much more appropriate to table the major issues --the continuous flow of financial resources from South to North and the appropriation of knowledge and technology from the South by the North-- as a way of establishing suitable conditions for the conservation of forests in the South.
* It promotes the direct involvement of transnational companies in the process
In comparison with this, the problems mentioned in the preceding paragraphs take on relative importance. Briefly, the work plan promotes "partnerships" (of transnational companies with governments and civil society organisations), which in fact means placing the solution to the problems in the hands of those who most destroy: transnational corporations. The draft work plan hopes that they will provide financial resources, technology transfer, trade and other "benefits" that would supposedly result in sustainable forest management.
Thus, by the stroke of a pen, the transnational corporations have gone from being part of the problem to becoming a central part of the solution. The fact that the corporations themselves are one of the main causes of social and environmental destruction is overlooked. At the same time that civil society organisations are increasingly calling for them to be controlled and made legally accountable for the impacts of their activities, the WSSD opens the door wide to them. Although governments are experts at both being foxes and being chickens --and therefore knowledgeable about both species-- in fact what they want to do is to put the fox in charge of the hen house!
In sum, the official documentation of the WSSD is in line with the post-Rio process. Over the past ten years, promise after promise made at the Earth Summit has been broken. The draft work plan for the WSSD goes even further: it does not even promise anything. As a result, to achieve something positive regarding forests at this Summit will depend almost entirely on the capacity of civil society organisations to achieve the introduction of substantial changes in the plan under discussion.
************************************************************ * HOPE FOR THE FUTURE ************************************************************
- Forest peoples: A ray of hope
Tropical rainforests are among the world's most diverse and at the same time most threatened ecosystems on Earth. While governments have agreed on the diagnosis, they have failed in the implementation of global and national measures for ensuring their conservation. Within that context, it is important to highlight some fundamental issues which have yet to be truly taken on board for forest conservation to be possible.
The first issue is that forests are not empty. Tropical forests have been inhabited by indigenous and traditional peoples for hundreds of thousands of years, well before the creation of most of the modern national states. Each of those peoples have a very precise knowledge of the boundaries of the territory used, managed and owned by them.
Linked to this knowledge, the second issue to highlight is that forest peoples hold the rights to those territories by virtue of first settlement. However these rights are not recognized by most national governments, which declare that forests legally belong to the state. This legal injustice --in most cases concocted by colonial rule-- paves the way to forest destruction through government concessions for large scale exploitation, including industrial logging, mining, oil drilling, plantations and many other destructive activities.
The third issue is that forest peoples hold the knowledge about the forest. Proof of this is that for centuries they managed to live with the forest while fulfilling all their material and spiritual needs through skillful management. The causes of most modern destructive practices is usually found in external pressures on forests from government policies rather than in forest peoples' themselves.
The fourth and perhaps most important issue regarding the future of the forests is that forest peoples are the ones more directly interested in their conservation, because forests not only ensure their livelihoods, but are an integral part of their way of life, where respect for nature is at the core of their culture. They are not mere "stakeholders" but "rights-holders" and as such they are the most willing (and able) to protect their resources in the long term.
Forest peoples thus constitute a ray of hope for the forests' future. They hold the rights and the knowledge and their physical and cultural survival depends on ensuring their conservation. In many cases, forest peoples are adapting their knowledge to a changing situation, working out and implementing alternatives for sustainable and equitable livelihoods, away from the official and already meaningless "sustainable development" discourse which governments and TNCs have emptied of the meaning it initially carried.
The ray of hope represented by those peoples is, however, still not strong enough and needs support from all organizations working for human rights and forest conservation. Being the main on-the-ground opposition to forest destruction, forest peoples form a basis for the establishment of worldwide alliances of people willing to support their struggle. Such support should not be seen, however, as "us" assisting "them", but as a collaborative effort to ensure present and future livelihoods for all people on Earth.
The Johannesburg Summit is an opportunity for governments to re-commit themselves to forest conservation. The way to prove their political will would be to explicitly acknowledge the territorial rights of indigenous and other traditional forest peoples and to commit themselves to incorporating this in their national legislation. This would be the first step in the right direction, because it would create the necessary basic conditions for making forest conservation possible. Will governments finally do what needs to be done and allow this ray of hope to shine? ************************************************************
- Community Forest Management: A feasible and necessary alternative
Ten years after the Earth Summit, deforestation continues to advance in most of the countries of the world, and in particular in tropical regions. In our successive bulletins we have abundantly recorded cases and processes of destruction, behind which in one way or another, it is possible to perceive the hand of the North.
Although this is the predominant model, advancing with all the force of globalisation and the power mechanisms it has at its disposal (namely multilateral financial institutions, the World Trade Organisation, credit conditionalities etc.), there is also another model or other different models. These are the systems that indigenous peoples and local forest-dependent communities have developed over hundreds or thousands of years. These societies have a rich tradition in forest management on the basis of totally different parameters from those of the predominant model, based on the community and with the objective of conservation. They have been ancestral custodians of this ecosystem as it is an intrinsic part of their way of life and undoubtedly, they have become an obstacle to the economic forces which, following their profit-making equation are attempting to destroy it. For this reason, these forces have tried to silence these traditions and to make them invisible.
For many years, forest policy has been based on the notion that local forest users were ignorant and destructive. The State authorities in capital cities, responsible for policy-making, looked down on the knowledge and capacities of the indigenous peoples and local communities, overlooking what was obvious: they were the most interested parties in the sustainable management of the forests as these were their source of life --no one better than these peoples knew forest ecosystem functioning and management.
It is thus that the so-called experts classified indigenous forest management practices, implying a sustainable rotation system, together with those of settlers-farmers herded by governmental policies towards tropical areas (and for whom the forest was more of an obstacle than a resource), accusing them all --indigenous peoples and farmers-- of being the main agents causing forest degradation.
This prejudiced vision prevailed for a long time, but recently forest communities have launched a process of empowerment, making their positions known, setting up local, regional, national and international alliances, linking themselves with other sectors of civil society with similar positions, demanding respect for their rights, dialoguing, defending their territories, expressing their positions in international fora.
And at this time, when the economic, social and environmental impacts of the industrial and Western development model are revealed as more than sufficient proof of unsustainability, when the loss of the ancient harmonic links between humans and nature --which up to now had enabled the life of our species on the Earth-- hurts and is felt in its tragic dimensions, a change becomes imperious, a change implying a return to the sources. And it is in this sense, against the prevailing power that the community-based natural resource management systems become visible once again and arise with the force of an alternative to be followed.
In 1978, during the World Forestry Congress "Forests for People," a gradual change of perspective started to gain acceptance on an international scale, insofar as people started recognising that those who most know about forests are those living in them.
On the basis of successful cases and of the analysis of others that were not so successful, a movement has been established, both at national and international level, gathering those who seek to promote community forest management. At the level of international processes --and in particular the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)-- this current has materialised in the Community Forest Management Caucus, which met in June in Bali, Indonesia, at the same time as the last preparatory meeting for the WSSD. Those who participated in the Caucus --among which the WRM-- have committed themselves to actively promote community forest management as an alternative which is not only feasible, but its incorporation into the WSSD would be socially and environmentally desirable, as a solution to the forest crisis.
Beyond more or less elaborate technical definitions, the name itself of "community forest management" already expresses its characteristics quite precisely. However, it might be useful to identify at least some of the minimum assumptions for it to be considered as such.
In the first place, the community management system seeks to guarantee access and control over forest resources to the communities living in them, but mainly to those who depend on the forest to satisfy their economic, social, cultural and spiritual needs. Forest management should be aimed at offering security not only to the present generation but also to coming generations, and also at increasing the possibility of sustainability. It therefore is based on three principles:
- the rights and responsibilities for forest resources should be clear, safe and permanent. - forests should be managed in an appropriate way so that they can supply benefits and added value. - forest resources should be handed down in good condition to ensure their future viability.
In general terms, the concept incorporates basic defining elements that do not attempt to refer to a single model but to a diversity of models. Each one will have its own special characteristics, as a result of the culture and the environmental characteristics of the site, but all of them within a conceptual framework transcending the merely technical.
Such a conceptual framework includes a holistic vision of the world, spanning ecological, social, political, economic, moral and spiritual factors. Its moral values are based on harmony and not on conflict; social values are seen in links based on co-operation and association among community groups; ecological values seek to integrate people and their environment with economy on a local scale through the adoption of a multifunctional and multiproduct approach. In this framework, the economy seeks to reduce poverty, promoting equity and self-sufficiency; and social integration aims at promoting local development based in the communities. Furthermore, democracy in decisions on local resources implies that measures should be adopted by the community itself, in the ways it decides to. In turn, spirituality and culture are an integral part of the forest communities who consider the forest to be the home of their ancestors, of spirits and sacred gods, giving it a much wider dimension than that of a purely commercial one.
It is important to note that this is not a theoretical suggestion, but a description of real situations existing throughout all the continents. Community forest management exists and is increasingly visible, in spite of the opposition or insufficient support it receives on the part of governments and international organisations.
In this framework, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg offers a good opportunity to disseminate this approach as an alternative to the predominant destructive model. The Forest Community Management Caucus is working to gather forces and to try and have an influence on governments as a way of having an impact on how the texts of international agreements are drawn up, on identifying strategies and mechanisms to create a world movement that will go beyond summit meetings, establishing links with other similar groups, making the most of the presence of the mass media to reach public opinion and thus be able to create awareness.
In Johannesburg the governments have the possibility of taking the community forest management system as a reference and of attempting to change the predominant course of forest policy. Whether they take these suggestions into consideration or not will reveal the degree of commitment they have with forest conservation.
Article based on information from: "Forests, People and Rights", by Liz Chidley, edited by Carolyn Marr. Down to Earth, International Campaign for Ecological Justice in Indonesia, Special Report, June 2002, http://dte.gn.apc.org/srfin.htm ; "When there's a Way, there's a Will", Report 1: Developing Sustainability through the Community Ecosystem Trust, by Michael M'Gonigle, Brian Egan, Lisa Ambus, and Heather Mahony, David Boyd, Bryan Evans, Eco-Research Chair of Environmental Law and Policy, University of Victoria, Canada, and the International Network of Forests and Communities, July 2001, http://www.forestsandcommunities.org/PDF/CET%20Flyer.pdf
************************************************************ * A DESTRUCTIVE PRESENT ************************************************************
- The causes of deforestation and those responsible for it
Over the ten years following the Earth Summit, governments have been engrossed in a series of international processes with the declared objective of ensuring forest conservation. However they will be able to show little or no concrete results at the Johannesburg Summit Meeting, for the simple reason that forests have continued to disappear.
In the best case, a few governments --in particular, European ones-- can argue that their countries have managed to reverse the process and that they have more "forests" than before. However this hides two fundamentally important facts. On the one hand, that the extension of their "forested area" refers in fact to monoculture tree plantations that have little to do with their original forests. On the other hand, it hides an even more important fact: that conservation of its forests has been achieved at the expense of the forests of other countries, in particular those of the South.
Additionally, both these and the other Northern countries are directly responsible for the serious deforestation processes that have taken place and continue to take place in the South, through the imposition of a development model that has generated poverty and environmental degradation in the euphemistically called "developing countries."
We doubt whether there is any government that can seriously dare to state at Johannesburg that it has not only conserved its own forests but also has not contributed to forest loss in other countries. Even countries such as China and Thailand, which have decreed a prohibition against felling their forests, are now clearly responsible for deforestation processes in third party countries.
In order to understand the above statements it is necessary to understand the different causes of deforestation and forest degradation, that may be grouped into direct causes and underlying (or indirect) causes. The direct causes are easier to see and are those that, in most cases, are attributed the responsibility for deforestation. However, in fact it is the other causes --the so-called "underlying" causes-- that determine that the direct causes take place.
As an example, increasingly, a large number of peasants clear-cut or fire forests to use the soil for agricultural crops and stock-raising. This is a direct cause of deforestation. However, the reason for peasants emigrating to the forest is because they do not have land in their place of origin which they can cultivate and this arises from an unjust policy regarding land distribution. This is an underlying cause. Furthermore, if the peasants come to the forests it is because the government or the logging or mining companies have opened up roads. This --the opening up of roads-- is another underlying cause. In many cases, the government promotes migration, aiming at the expansion of the agricultural frontier in order to increase exports. This implicitly has various underlying causes: inter alia, the need to pay foreign debt, policies imposed by international financial institutions, the existence of consumer markets in rich countries.
The motor behind the direct causes.
The most important direct causes of deforestation include the conversion of forest lands for agriculture and cattle-raising, urbanization, road construction, industrial logging, mining, oil expoitation, construction of oil and gas pipelines, shrimp farming (in the case of mangroves), fires and the construction of huge hydroelectric dams. Large-scale monoculture tree plantations to ensure the global paper industry with cheap raw material, are also a direct cause of deforestation as in many cases they have been preceded by firing or clearcutting of native forests.
However, the real motor behind all these activities being carried out in an unsustainable and predatory way, is the "development" model currently in force. This model implies the unrestricted exploitation of the totality of the planet's resources, with the aim of feeding an ever-growing consumer market, in particular in the Northern industrialised countries. Inequality in terms of exchange between North and South that has generated an increasing and unpayable foreign debt, obliging more and more resources to be exploited and extracted, just to pay off its service, has increased devastation. The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, regional multilateral banks and the World Trade Organisation have been fundamental in this process, promoting and supporting governments to centre their efforts to orient production towards exports, with the aim of complying with the foreign debt service. Furthermore, structural adjustment programmes imposed by these organisms has implied that the States have "shrunk", with the consequence that there is a lack of human and financial resources at State level to address forest protection and sustainable management.
In most cases, the hidden causes of deforestation and forests degradation are related to macro-economic strategies offering strong incentives to obtain short term profits, instead of seeking sustainability in the long term. Deeply rooted social structures are also important, causing unequal land tenure and discrimination of indigenous peoples, of subsistence farmers and of poor people in general. In other cases, political factors are at stake, such as the lack of participatory democracy, military influence and exploitation of rural zones by urban elites.
The forces behind unsustainable agriculture
According to the FAO, 90 per cent of deforestation is caused by unsustainable agricultural practices, while logging and plantation forestry play a greater role in forest degradation. However debatable these figures may be, unsustainable agriculture is undoubtedly one of the major direct causes of deforestation and forest degradation in many countries of the world. A simplistic approach to the problem would imply blaming the "ignorance" of the farmers involved in this process. The process is however more complex. Few people actually decide that they want to leave their native land, go to the forest, cut it and convert it into agricultural land. They are driven to such actions by national and international forces with interests different to theirs.
In some countries, forests act as safety-valves to avoid social uprisings, in the following way. The concentration of power and land in few hands results in large groups of dispossessed people, which may lead to confrontation. To avoid conflict, some of these people are offered free land within the forests. Access to forests is made possible through government-promoted road projects, either built to open up and "develop" the forests or resulting from the commercial activities of logging, mining, and energy generation. In the above example, it is clear that deforestation can take place only because a number of government policies --social and economic-- indirectly promote it. Whilst the poor may operate the chainsaws or set the forest on fire, it is mostly governments and corporations who are behind such actions.
The far-reaching consequences of globalization
Forests are also opened up for modern large-scale agriculture or cattle-raising aimed at the export market. For example, forests have been converted for cattle in Central America, for soy bean production in Brazil and for pulpwood in Indonesia. In the first case, the process originated in the explosive development of a fast food --hamburger-- market in the US which required vast amounts of low-quality cheap meat which could be produced in nearby tropical countries. The result was widespread deforestation in Central America. Subsidized and highly intensive meat production in Europe requires an ever-increasing supply of grains to feed livestock. Soy bean is one of the major inputs for such production and enormous patches of forest have been opened up in Brazil --and in many other Southern countries-- to ensure the economic sustainability of that sector through the supply of cheap grain. A similar situation occurs with paper: the continued growth of paper consumption, particularly in high income countries, depends on the availability of cheap wood or pulp to feed the paper mills. Forests are thus being cleared in Indonesia --and many other parts of the world-- to give way to eucalyptus plantations aimed at supplying that market with increasing amounts of cheap raw material. In the above cases, it is clear that the production of hamburgers in the US, of meat in Europe and of paper in high-income countries are a contributory cause of deforestation in Central America, Brazil and Indonesia.
Land tenure policies and inequalities
Ecuador offers an example which applies not only to most other Amazonian countries but also to many other Southern countries in other regions. Since the 1970s there has been a great influx of farmers into the Ecuadorian Amazon, one of the most precious forest areas in the world. Most of these farmers came from the Andes and coastal regions of the country, where they were faced with landlessness, unemployment, and land degradation. Migration was strongly encouraged by the Ecuadorian Government, with a provision for land titles if they could prove they were turning it to "useful" land. Demostrating this was simple: to clearcut at least 80% of the forest within the assigned area. Therefore, the real cause of this terrible process of deforestation can be found in a series of governmental policies and not in the "ignorance" or "poverty" of the farmers that migrated to the Amazon.
Consumption and production patterns
Consumption and production patterns play a key role in deforestation, as they are the answer to the question why many countries, if not the majority, changed to export oriented products. It is seldom the production of food for the poor which causes deforestation. On the contrary, the largest areas of forests converted to other uses are currently being dedicated to the production of cash crops. These products, which vary from coffee and beef to coca and soy bean, are in many cases almost exclusively produced for export markets. Export oriented production is stimulated as a way of repairing the trade balance and balance of payment distortions. Under the current free-trade oriented ideology, the standard solution of institutions like the International Monetary Fund for these problems is increasing exports, instead of decreasing imports.
A global problem with many actors
Deforestation and forest degradation occur both in Northern and Southern countries and their underlying causes also originate in both, although with varying degrees of responsibility. Industrialized countries have not only cut down or degraded their own forests in the past; many are still doing so today. This occurs either through large-scale clear-cutting --as in many areas of Canada, the US or Australia-- or through the simplification --and therefore degradation-- of forests reducing them to a few commercially valuable species at the expense of biodiversity --such as in Sweden, France or Finland. At the same time, problems resulting from industrialization are having a strong impact in forest degradation. In the South, some forests are being clear-felled --mostly for unsustainable export-oriented agriculture, tree and oil-palm plantations and cattle-- or are being degraded as a result of the selective logging of the more commercial species --such as mahogany.
Some underlying causes originate within the country --either Northern or Southern-- while others can be found outside national boundaries. In this latter situation, the main responsibility usually lies in the North. Macro-economic policies imposed on the South through a number of mechanisms can also contribute to deforestation. One of the more obvious results of such policies has been the increasing incorporation of Southern agricultural exports to markets in Northern countries, usually at the expense of forests. The same macro-economic policies have resulted in the concentration of wealth in the North which, coupled with strong incentives to consumerism, have created unsustainable consumption patterns which have a strong impact particularly --though not exclusively-- on Southern forests.
Southern governments and elites also hold responsibility for some deeper causes of deforestation. Government policies on indigenous peoples' rights --particularly those affecting territorial rights-- have been the cause of much deforestation which would not have occurred if those rights had been recognized. Policies over land tenure rights in general have resulted in the concentration of the best agricultural lands in a few hands and the consequent migration of poor peasants into the forests, resulting in large-scale felling of trees. In most cases however government policies are linked to external actors such as multilateral institutions, "co-operation" agencies and transnational corporations who must share the blame. It is known that building access roads is one of the main underlying causes of deforestation. The road then opens up the forest to loggers, landless peasants, mining companies and many other actors, resulting in generalized deforestation. Road-building is one of the activities promoted and funded by multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and other regional multilateral banks and it allows governments to comply with the International Monetary Fund's policies to increase exports. Road-building is also linked to transnational corporations' interests, as they can thereby access natural resources and incorporate them into the global market.
Looking towards the future
The above is a brief summary of some of the causes of deforestation and forest degradation, proving that their conservation is not a merely "technical" issue of appropriate forest management. Forests are not disappearing because the people and their governments are ignorant or because there are no suitable management plans. The forests are disappearing because a series of inter-connected national and international policies prepare the way for this to happen. Therefore, it is at this level that solutions must be found.
At the present time, the predominant economic model is exacerbating the causes even further --both direct and underlying-- that are at the root of the problem, while the actors involved --governments, companies and multilateral organisations-- continue to mislead public opinion, assuring it that the problem is being tackled.
The way of avoiding this deception is to inform that self-same public opinion about the real causes --and those responsible for them-- of the loss of forests, as a way of generating social pressure that will oblige these actors to adopt the necessary measures, both at national and international level, to ensure forest conservation.
The present summit meeting in Johannesburg is an excellent opportunity to place the issue on the agenda and to unmask the false discourse of those who dress in environmental green, while their sole interest is the green banknote of the United States.
************************************************************ * THE TROUBLE-MAKERS ************************************************************
- The Greening of Corporations
The profit-led corporate logic is determining our future, and that of generations to come, shaping the emerging international system which is today dominated by institutions that favour corporate rights. The outstanding outcome of present globalisation --privatisation and deregulation-- have allowed corporations to usurp the natural basis upon which all life depends.
As the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) approaches, conflicts intensify between North and South, civil society and industry. Northern governments defend corporate-led globalisation, including market liberalisation and privatisation of public services, as part of "sustainable development" --the catch-all phrase used by all parties to describe their responses, however inadequate, to the accelerating global social and ecological crisis. And their major plan is to undermine the United Nations as an institution to meaningfully address the twin crises of global poverty and ecological decline.
The deep contradictions between neoliberal globalisation policies on the one hand and environmental and social goals on the other are mainly reflected on conflicts over trade and finance issues, and on the attemps to rollback Rio by withdrawing from key outcomes such as the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities --those nations who played the biggest role in causing a problem should take the lead in addressing it-- and the Precautionary Principle --governments should err on the side of caution when there is the possibility of devastating and irreparable environmental harm.
For Johannesburg, talks concentrate on a Plan of Implementation/Action intended to develop national and global policies and programs, and a Political Declaration, in which governments are expected to recommit to Agenda 21 and the pursuit of "sustainable development": these are called Type I outcomes (obligatory). Type II (voluntary) outcomes are a new and controversial category: partnership projects aiming to implement "sustainable development", with a strong focus on participation of the private sector through private-public partnerships.
The current bias of the WSSD's Chairman's Text towards market-based delivery of services fits hand in glove with corporate campaigns in the run-up to the WSSD. Transnational mining company Rio Tinto's Lord Holme of Cheltenham, for instance, is vice-chair of BASD (Business Action for Sustainable Development), which is a joint campaign by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (a coalition of 150 large corporations, currently chaired by Shell's Phil Watts, created to provide business input into the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which has contributed to blocking attempts to regulate business) and the International Chamber of Commerce.
BASD'S recipe for "sustainable development" is a combination of corporate partnership projects and improved governance in the South. BASD's key representative in South Africa, Reuel Khoza, chairman of South African electricity company Eskom, referred to the UN's Global Compact (a voluntary partnership between the UN, the corporate sector and some NGOs around a set of social, human rights and environmental principles, and criticised by large sections of civil society because it lacks monitoring and enforcement) and the Global Reporting Initiative (a set of guidelines for reporting on the social, environmental and human rights performance) as guarantees of transparency in Type II projects. He announced that some of the partnership projects submitted by the BASD would also aim to implement the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). NEPAD, the "development path" crafted by the South African and other African governments, promotes the privatisation of water, electricity, transport and telecommunication services, as well as continued debt repayments and the further liberalisation of markets and international investment flows, and is widely opposed by African civil society.
Other plans of the WBCSD for Johannesburg include promoting six sectoral projects run by working groups made up of WBCSD corporations. Forestry is one of the most controversial.
The "Sustainable Forestry Industry" project of the WBCSD started in 1994, when a group of companies led by Brazilian Aracruz Celulose and Finnish UPM-Kymmene initiated a study focusing on paper production. The study was commissioned from an external body (the International Institute for Environment and Development or IIED). The report 'Towards a Sustainable Paper Cycle' was published in June 1996. The next step was the creation of the "Forest Dialogue", which included land owners, the forest industry, some NGOs and the World Bank. The goal of the dialogue, co-chaired by the WBCSD and the World Resources Institute (WRI), was to develop a consensus vision on the world forests and a range of concrete issues, such as mutual recognition of certification schemes for forestry industry practices.
The credibility of the self-proclaimed quest for sustainable forestry is seriously undermined by the shameful record of the two corporations that initiated the project. UPM-Kymmene is heavily criticised by forest campaign groups for its damaging activities in Indonesia, misconduct that continued after the launch of the "Sustainable Forestry Industry" project. In 1997, the Finnish wood products giant got a paper plant in Changsu, China, which processes pulp from PT Riau Anadalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), the second largest pulp producer of Indonesia. RAPP's mill in Riau, Sumatra, was expanded with a $750 million investment package supported by the Finnish and Swedish export credit agencies. The Riau mill produces 750,000 tones of pulp each year by logging the natural rainforest, substituting over 50 species of tropical hardwood for acacia plantations. Local communities have suffered severe impacts, the river essential for their livelihood has been polluted, they have been evicted from their lands with no compensation and have faced physical violence when protesting. UPM-Kymmene pulled out of RAPP, but still uses RAPP's pulp for its paper production in China.
The other founder of the WBCSD forestry project, Aracruz Celulose, specialises in bleached eucalyptus pulp. The company is particularly infamous for its destructive social and environmental impacts in the Brazilian states of Espirito Santo and Bahia. Aracruz has flooded the regions with extensive monoculture tree plantations and uprooted indigenous peoples such as the Tupinikim and the Guarani from their lands. It has turned what used to be the Mata Atlantica rainforest into a green eucalyptus desert. The impacts on local communities and the environment has led to the creation of a broad opposition movement --the Alert Against the Green Desert Movement-- which groups indigenous peoples, afro-descendent communities, fisherfolk, farmers, the landless peasants' movement, environmental and social NGOs, among others. The existing contradictions between the company and local society were clearly shown at the beginning of August when the company's third pulp mill was opened in the presence of the President of Brazil, while people gathered outside in a demonstration against the company. That was only one of the many activities organized by the Alert Against the Green Desert Movement during its "1st Fortnight of Resistance against the Green Desert". Other actions included a demonstration against Aracruz in front of Parliament House, at the doors of the Safra Bank (a Brazilian bank that owns 28% of ordinary shares of Aracruz), and also in front of the office of Finnish consultancy company Yaakko Poyry --working for Aracruz-- in the state's capital city Vitoria. At the same time, Aracruz's Norwegian chairman -- Erling Sven Lorentzen-- failed to appear before the Parliamentary Investigation Commission of the State Parliament of Espirito Santo that is investigating irregularities of the company´s activities, under the excuse "that he was not the right person to be heard by the Commission, once he is not directly involved in the administration of the company."!
Those are the "green credentials" of the Sustainable Forestry Industry's two corporate leaders. Will the WSSD give further "sustainable development" credentials to a corporate sector which can only be portrayed as socially and environmentally conscious through their channelling of millions of dollars to public relations companies eager to "green" them?
Article based on information from: "Countdown to Rio+10: 'Sustainable Development' and the Public-Private Pantomime", Corporate Europe Observer, Issue Number 12, August 2002, http://www.corporateeurope.org/observer12/wssdlobby.html#02 ; "Social Responsibility and the Mechanical Bull: The International Chamber of Commerce Dresses for Success", http://www.corporateeurope.org/observer12/iccdenver.htm ; "Exporting Enron Environmentalism: The Bush Vision for Johannesburg", Victor Menotti, International Forum on Globalization, http://www.ifg.org ; Press Release of the Alert against the Green Desert Movement, Vitoria, 14 August 2002. Contact e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ************************************************************
- The International Monetary Fund: Funding deforestation
As compared to the World Bank --its sister institution-- the IMF's impacts on forests have been relatively underreported. However, International Monetary Fund loans and policies have caused extensive deforestation in countries of Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
Through the imposition of "structural adjustment programs", the IMF influences countries' economic policies and practices by conditioning loans upon the acceptance of a series of trade and investment liberalisation measures. Along with its partners --most notably the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation-- the IMF has been instrumental in promoting a regime of privatisation, deregulation, foreign investment, and export-oriented growth. Through these policies, the IMF imposes a one-size-fits-all prescription, allegedly for the purpose of economic growth by increasing Southern countries' access to hard currency. However, while meeting development objectives has proven elusive in most IMF client countries, the overall effect of these policies on forests globally has been devastating.
Although the architects of corporate globalisation claim that trade and investment liberalisation is the best strategy for improvements in environmental protection, the record shows that funding for environmental programs has been hampered by the significant cuts in government spending imposed by the IMF as part of its loan conditionalities. Government spending on important environmental programs has thus been substantially reduced in Brazil, Nicaragua, Guyana, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Cameroon. IMF-induced budget cuts have impeded the following activities:
- Promotion of responsible forestry and sustainable development - Enforcement of forest and wildlife protection measures - Prevention of mining disasters - Demarcation of indigenous lands
Additionally, inadequate funding for regulatory agencies has created conditions for:
- Widespread illegal logging, including in national parks and protected reserves - Corruption in regulatory schemes - The inability to respond rapidly to natural disasters - Extensive poaching of imperilled species
Long-term economic prosperity must be based on sustainable development patterns. Instead the IMF prioritises economic liberalisation measures over key social and environmental objectives. The IMF's primary economic liberalisation mechanisms have included: reducing export taxes; relaxing mining and forestry codes; removing bans on raw log exports; offering tax holidays to foreign firms; lifting prohibitions on foreign investment, including land ownership; and otherwise eliminating barriers to trade. The implementation of such liberalisation mechanisms --clearly geared at benefiting transnational corporations-- has heavily impacted on forests and forest peoples' livelihoods. Absent real improvements in environmental safeguards, the IMF's formula has been a recipe for accelerated deforestation for too many countries.
Additionally, IMF policies have impacted on forests and wildlife indirectly through the worsening of poverty conditions in many tropical countries. Through displacement of communities, devaluation of currencies, elimination of social services, and other IMF-driven downward pressures on the living standards of local peoples, rural residents in many countries have been forced to exploit forest resources to fulfil their basic needs.
There is abundant evidence all over the world that the IMF's activities are destructive and are threatening forests and forest peoples. The consistency of forest degradation in countries where the IMF has had an important role calls into question the credibility of the IMF when it claims that its policies do not harm the environment, or that the environment concerns are outside of its mandate: concerns are certainly absent in its policies but impacts are clearly always present. From all available evidence, it is apparent that global protection of forests will not be possible without either fundamental transformation of the approach taken by the IMF, or the removal of its ability to promote and impose policies that harm forests.
Article drawn from the report: " The IMF: funding deforestation" by Jason Tockman, American Lands Alliance. The full report, including the case studies can be read at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/actors/IMF/Jason.doc ************************************************************
- World Bank: The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
The World Bank has a long history in forest destruction. From the 1960s onwards, the Bank has funded large-scale destructive projects in the tropics --ranging from massive hydroelectric dams to extensive road systems-- which resulted in widespread deforestation processes. Since the 1980's, the Bank's negative role was further increased through its structural adjustment programs --in partnership with the International Monetary Fund-- which opened up forests to additional destructive activities --ranging from mining to export-oriented large-scale monocultures-- for the benefit of transnational corporations and their local partners.
As a result of strong international campaigns, the Bank prepared a Forest Policy paper in 1991 to help ensure that its activities would promote forest conservation. This paper which contained a prohibition on direct Bank financing of industrial logging operations in primary moist tropical forests was well-received by the NGO-community. It was spelled out as an Operational Policy in 1993 with the promise of changing the Bank's approach to forests. However, the Bank failed to implement its own policy. That was the conclusion of an extensive review carried out during 1999 by the Bank's own Operations Evaluation Department (OED). In general terms, the OED concluded that the Bank had failed to implement critical provisions in the policy, such as using an inter-sectoral approach to forest which would have ensured that the impacts on forests of all types of Bank operations would be taken into account and avoided.
Although the policy was not implemented in practice, many Bank staff felt unhappy with the policy believing that it was too conservation-minded and pressed for the development of a new policy which would allow for the financing of large-scale forestry operations. However, given the previous controversies around World Bank Forest Policy, the intended policy changes required to at least give the appearance of a consultative process with stakeholders. During the period 2000/2001, NGOs on all continents accepted the World Bank's offer to participate in a series of regional consultations to help the Bank prepare its new Forest Policy (OP). In addition, the Bank established a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to provide the institution with further guidance in this important policy area.
However, the input provided by the consultations and the TAG has evaporated into thin air. The consultations were a sham. This is the conclusion we have to draw from the Bank's draft OP which was placed on the institution's website on June 10 for public review until August 2, 2002.
Letters sent to Mr. Wolfensohn by WRM/Environmental Defense/Forest Peoples Programme (endorsed by more than 200 NGOs worldwide) and by Russian NGOs which recently participated in a forest conference in Siberia, highlight some of the most disturbing elements of the draft OP:
- Although economic and trade policies have long been identified as driving forces of deforestation, the OP does not apply to the growing area of structural and programmatic lending; - The Bank's private sector arms, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) are exempt from the OP; - It opens the doors to extractive investments in all types of forests except those deemed to be "critical" by World Bank officials. There is no stakeholder participation in the definition of "critical forests;" - Even "critical forests" may be logged or cleared where alternative locations are not "feasible" and as long as undefined "mitigatory measures" are proposed; - It opens the door to Bank financing of plantations in forests, although it "prefers" these not be areas specially cleared for the purpose; - It opens the door to rogue certification schemes since Bank funding of commercial logging is to be subject to third party certification or an action plan promising such, but without setting clear standards; - The draft OP no longer requires that areas be set aside for indigenous peoples and other forest dwellers (this is a requirement of the existing Forest Policy); - Similarly, the draft OP has dropped a previous requirement to set aside areas for conservation alongside forest exploitation.
There is universal agreement among the NGO-community that the draft OP is seriously flawed and represents a dangerous set-back for the world's forest ecosystems and the people whose livelihoods depend on them. What follows are brief excerpts from letters addressed to World Bank President Wolfensohn by major conservation organizations:
IUCN: "...the draft OP does not adequately safeguard the rights of forest-dependant people or the integrity of biologically important forests from the unintended negative impacts of Bank operations." (July 30, 2002).
World Resources Institute: "...the draft policy currently submitted for public comment is grossly inadequate to fulfill its intended objectives. It is inadequate to promote either a 'do no harm' or a 'do good' agenda, and is incomplete in its coverage of Bank Group instruments and institutions." (August 2, 2002).
WWF and Conservation International: "The current Bank draft falls short of several fundamental requirements on which virtually the entire conservation community agrees. If adopted in its current form, the draft OP may not only be bad for the world's forests, but will certainly expose the Bank to serious and warranted criticism for ignoring much of the advice it openly solicited on the subject." (July 17, 2002).
In the run-up to Johannesburg the World Bank is putting in extra efforts to portray itself as the global leader in environmentally and socially sustainable development. The proposed new Forest Policy, however, reveals an entirely different picture of an institution going backwards on previous commitments to protect the world's forests and the people who depend on them. The wolf in sheep's clothing is probably the most accurate way of describing it.
By: Korinna Horta. Environmental Defense, e-mail: Korinna_Horta@environmentaldefense.org ************************************************************
- World Bank: At the forefront of carbon trading
To put a shine on its green credentials at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the World Bank plans to launch a new fund at Johannesburg, aimed at promoting the North-South trade in carbon credits in line with the so-called 'Clean Development Mechanism' (1). The 'Community Development Carbon Fund' builds on a three year experiment - the World Bank's Prototype Carbon Fund - but will be a separate initiative with its own statutes and governance structure with a specific focus on promoting small-scale projects which have a community development component. Although the focus of the fund will be on small-scale energy projects - biogas, mini-hydro, windfarms - the fund will also fund projects in forests, agriculture and plantations. The fund is being set up jointly with the International Emissions Trading Association.
In November, the World Bank plans to launch another fund with a more industrial orientation. The 'BioCarbon Fund' will focus exclusively on land use change projects. One window of the fund will finance projects within the current Kyoto Protocol framework but a second window will promote experimental projects in carbon sequestration through plantations, reforestation and averted deforestation that go beyond current international agreements. By adopting a 'learning by doing' approach, the Bank hopes to clarify the technical obstacles plaguing 'carbon forestry' and promote 'best practice'.
What does 'best practice' really mean? Best for whom? Whose interests are really being served? Much of the thinking behind the promotion of these 'carbon forestry' experiments emphasizes potential contributions to promoting fibre production to meet burgeoning consumer demand for paper and pulp, satisfying global demand for wood products and protecting biodiversity. Best practitioners are said to be large plantation companies, global retailers in forest products, large investment funds providing capital resources for these new forestry schemes. But what are the real implications of 'carbon forestry' for local communities?
Large-scale projects are likely to take over large areas of land and forests and are bound to have major impacts on forest dwellers. The 'best practices' that forest peoples have advocated, to give them a chance of dealing with these threats - recognition of their land rights and the right of free and informed consent - are just those that the World Bank has repeatedly refused to recognize in its redrafting of its policies on dams, resettlement, indigenous peoples and forests. What are the chances that the Bank will adopt stronger standards for carbon forestry than those it has adopted for its other development initiatives? If 'best practice' is not underpinned by mandatory requirements, we can be sure that 'worst practices' will result.
As for community-based alternatives, involving local communities in 'carbon forestry' is not just a cunning way of getting them additional funding for what they are doing anyway. Such activities fail the test of 'additionality'. 'Carbon forestry' projects will require communities to adopt new practices that will create long-term and additional stores of carbon. If these projects go wrong, failing to store carbon in as large a quantity or for as long as was planned, who will be liable to repay investors? There are real concerns that carbon forestry projects will expose the poor to additional risks they cannot afford to bear.
Pressures to select species that store carbon fast, may also skew carbon forestry away from a selection of the diverse and valuable multi-purpose tree species that underpin local livelihoods. Carbon forestry may thereby not only lessen biodiversity but may also jeopardize cultural and livelihood diversity.
Setting up a myriad of small-scale schemes and paying for the external certification required to verify the effectiveness of carbon-stores will also imply huge extra transaction costs both for the Bank and for communities but the modalities for providing grant funds to help communities meet these overheads are not yet in place. The Bank hopes to lessen its costs by working through 'intermediary organisations' - the risk is that these will not represent local views and concerns and the process may promote patron-client relations that perpetuate the marginalisation of the poor and powerless.
Sceptics worry that the Bank is setting up these initiatives to push negotiators at the InterGovernmental Framework Convention on Climate Change into accepting carbon trading as the main way to address global warming. They also fear that, by promoting all these funds the Bank is lining itself up as the obvious agency to have responsibility for implementing these agreements once they are made. Jobs for the boys or a real opportunity for the poor?
By: Marcus Colchester, Forest Peoples Programme, e-mail: email@example.com
(1) "No development mechanism can be clean, from our point of view, if it does not guarantee the rights of Indigenous Peoples including the right to free, prior informed consent of indigenous and local communities and the respect of our cultures, practices, sciences and knowledge." (Statement of the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Caucus to the Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Marrakech, Kingdom of Morocco, October 29 to November 9, 2001) ************************************************************
- WTO: Who's common future?
In November of 2001, trade ministers from 140 nations gathered in Doha, Qatar to give the World Trade Organization (WTO) a historic new mandate that could intensify logging of native forests, the depletion of fisheries, the burning of fossil fuels, the use of toxic chemicals, and the release of genetically-modified organisms.
Despite rhetoric about poverty alleviation and sustainable development, the ministerial's official statement (known as the Doha declaration) gives the WTO new powers to restrain governments from regulating the behavior of global corporations. By declaring itself the arbiter of planetary natural resource crises and the fora for determining the relationship between conflicting international agreements on trade and environment, the Doha agenda throws down a direct challenge to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The WTO's new mandate covers questions whose answers will ultimately define our common future. If left unchallenged, the question of global governance will have been resolved by the WTO's declaring itself the arbiter of all things. The global corporations shaping WTO rules will define the futures of countless small farmers, fisher peoples, forest dwellers, indigenous peoples, and others whose survival depends on access to, and control over, the natural resources that exist in local commons worldwide. Threats to these traditional peoples' sustainable livelihoods are inherent to the Doha agenda.
The Doha agenda has empowered the WTO to:
- increase corporate control over natural resources by allowing decisions about their use to be driven even more closely by the short-term demands of global financial markets; - intensify export-based forestry, farming, and fishing, as well as fossil fuels burning, mining, and other natural resource exploitation; - eliminate more conservation and community development policies as unfair "barriers" to trade; - determine who captures the remnants of the world's collapsing natural resources; - subordinate multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) to the rights of corporations enshrined in the WTO rules.
Furthermore, the WTO's market access agenda combines two dangerous impacts that undermine natural resource conservation and sustainable livelihoods: 1) the expansion of exports to wasteful consumers; 2) the elimination of legal protections that ensure sustainable natural resource use and local communities who depend on them. The forestry, fishing, and farming sectors are particularly impacted. Negotiations are broken down by the elimination of tariffs (import taxes) and so-called Non Tariff Measures, or NTMs.
Forest tariffs were an issue of great concern to protesters in Seattle, as ministers had prepared to finalize a deal that week. Popularly known as the "Global Free Logging Agreement," forest conservationists succeeded in getting the US Trade Representative to publish its first ever environmental assessment of trade liberalization, released just before the 1999 Ministerial. In the report, which was done by a timber industry-funded group, trade officials buried the real findings: tariff reductions would result in increased logging in some of the world's most threatened original forests inhabited by indigenous peoples. Cutting tariffs reduces wood prices for consumers, in turn stimulating more wasteful consumption, especially in the rich nations where tariffs are highest. WTO tariff elimination could undermine efforts to reduce wood and other resource consumption, a priority identified by the 1992 UN Rio Earth Summit. Yet the Johannesburg preparatory report by the UN Secretary-General hails the WTO's Doha agenda a "success."
Non Tariff Measures (NTMs) are considered to be any government measure, policy, or practice that has the effect of "distorting" trade. Forest NTMs are broadly defined as any measure that "distorts" trade. Even measures that have a "potential" to impact trade, such as ecolabels, are under the WTO microscope. The NTM agenda is the final push to remove all government control from regulating natural resources, where any policy objective, such as conservation or community development, is made subservient to expanding trade.
The Doha deal may some day come to be known as a declaration of silent war against the rights of people and the planet. It threatens poor peoples' access to and control over the very resources upon which their survival depends, deepening the spiral of exclusion that drives so many into insecurity and desperation. There is talk in the WSSD preparatory process of striking a "Global Deal" in Johannesburg. Any meaningful deal would have to initiate a people-driven process to transform international economic institutions. Otherwise, decisions taken under WSSD will be undermined by the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, and the global corporations they serve.
While the cheerleaders of global free trade spin Doha's outcomes as a victory in the global war on poverty, and remain "convinced that trade and environment policies can and must be mutually supportive," the contradictions between the Doha and Johannesburg agendas become increasingly clear.
With the very real prospect of global governance being usurped by transnational corporations via the WTO, civil society must use the Johannesburg process as a vehicle to defy the Doha agenda and intensify challenges to today's global economic institutions. Regardless of the WSSD's official outcomes, the peoples' process, as in Seattle, will and must ultimately replace the WTO with a truly democratic system that values life over money, and the rights of people over the rights of corporations.
Far from being finalized, global civil society's response to the Doha agenda has already been launched: grassroots organizations around the world will be using the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development as an organizing vehicle to beat back the Doha agenda. The Johannesburg's "peoples' process" will be just one of a number of convergences required to replace the WTO's bid for a corporate utopia with an international citizen's agenda that protects the poor and the planet. If not, Doha will be known as a pivotal point in history where global governance was truly usurped.
By: Victor Menotti, International Forum on Globalization, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org" ************************************************************
- FAO's "forests" or how to cheat at patience
FAO is cheating at a game of patience. And pretends that nobody notices it. All over the world we are watching the alarming destruction and degradation of forests and in this process the rights of indigenous peoples are being violated, watersheds are being affected, whole regions are being altered, the climate is being de-stabilised and species of flora and fauna are disappearing.
However, FAO (the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation), considered by many international bodies and by the forestry profession as the maximum authority on the subject of forests, is manipulating data on the true situation in such a way as to cover up the seriousness of the destruction process. Thus, in its report "Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000" (FRA2000) it introduces changes into its previous definition of forests, not to update it from its obvious obsolescence but to make it worse. Thus FAO manages to reach the conclusion that, in comparison with former assessments, an increase has taken place of the world forest cover. Nobody --not even themselves-- believe it, but at least they are trying.
This conclusion is reached through the manipulation of its definitions which, inter alia, state that "Forest includes natural forests and forest plantations. It is used to refer to land with a tree canopy cover of more than 10 percent and area of more than 0.5 ha.". This definition has been justifiably ridiculed on an international level, as it implies that a major part of the city of Asuncion (capital of Paraguay) should then be considered as a "forest."
With a stroke of the pen, applying this definition of forests, FAO has managed to lower deforestation rates and thus today there are 400 million hectares more of forests than the world figures for 1995. According to FAO itself: "Despite the high losses of the world's natural forests at the global level, new forest plantation areas are being established at the reported rate of 4.5 million hectares per year" and this results in a significantly lower net rate than that recorded in the previous FAO report, corresponding to the period 1990-1995. Although it does not use these same words, it may be inferred that insofar as plantations compensate for the loss of forests, there is no cause for concern, and the "forest cover" will have been maintained. So, FAO goes on cheating at this game of patience. Or is this its way of fulfilling its function in its capacity as Sectoral Co-ordinator for Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 (of the Earth Summit): "Combatting deforestation"?
What is behind this game? In the first place it should be noted that the plantations included are only industrial tree plantations, mostly aimed at wood production. Not included in this definition are trees for other purposes, such as fruit-trees or coconut plantations or agroforestry systems. And here we have an interesting case: why are the rubber tree plantations, formerly not considered as forests by FAO, now included as such? The reason is very simple: now rubber tree plantations have started to be increasingly used as wood and therefore acquire --for FAO-- visibility as forests. But they continue to be the same as before. Why can't plantations of other types of trees such as orange trees, banana trees or coconut trees be considered as forests? The answer is clear: because they are not intended for the production of wood. And this shows one of the concepts at the root of this definition and all it implies: a forest is not seen by FAO as what it is --a complete ecosystem including the human communities that depend on it-- but exclusively as producing wood.
Ten years after the Earth Summit, at the level of this "expert" organisation, not only has nothing changed for the better in this respect, but things have got worse. And this cannot be attributed to ignorance, as much has been said --and fully documented-- on the subject. Even when FAO tries to open up the umbrella by stating that it does not "intend to imply that plantations are equivalent to natural forests," and that "great care has been taken to keep the statistics for natural and planted forests separate" --though only in Southern countries-- what is true is that for FAO both categories continue to be just one and the same: forests.
It is illustrative to summarise here a written exchange which took place recently between a FAO staff member and a South African environmentalist regarding the area which --according to FAO statistics-- is covered by forests in that country. The FAO staff person finished his argument by saying "Forest plantations are areas with trees, and therefore a (kind of) forest." And the environmentalist replied: "by the same token, it could be claimed that locusts are a 'kind of bird' or that cornfields are a 'kind of prairie'."
Placing tree plantations on the same level as forests implies ignoring the various functions the latter fulfil: they are home to millions of people, they provide them with food, medicines, fibres, firewood, building materials, they regulate the local water regime and the global climate, just to mention a few of them. It also implies ignoring the long struggles taking place in many countries, both in the South and in the North (from Australia to Chile, from Spain and Portugal to South Africa and Brazil, from Thailand to India) against the invasion of large-scale monoculture tree plantations, so frequently carried out in detriment to forests. These struggles are not against the forests, but against the plantations, precisely because these do not have anything in common with forests and have a serious impact on local communities and their environment.
It is important to point out that within the orientation given to the approach towards forests, the promotion and legitimisation of industrial tree plantations are a perfect fit within the framework of the Green Revolution, promoted since decades ago again by FAO. All this is joined, and the various ramifications and connections link the deforestation process to cover industrial needs, with the invasion of monoculture tree plantations to feed the paper industry, with those who promote these processes --major transnational companies-- through an international web of organizations at their disposal, among which the WTO, the IMF and various international instruments.
In this process, the latest biotechnology findings are integrated into the technological package that has accompanied and continues to accompany agro-industrial production --weed-killers, pesticides, fertilisers, etc.-- first of all expressed in the already widespread techniques of selection and cloning of the most suitable genotypes for industrial purposes, with the intention of going on to use genetic manipulation. Presently, the major companies are involved in this, injecting money into academic research centres and attempting to take their dangerous experiments out to the field. FAO does not say anything in this respect, but will surely include plantations of transgenic trees --if we allow this to happen-- as "planted forests" helping to maintain the "forest cover" of the planet.
All this is serious. And even more serious coming from an organisation that has the mandate of monitoring how forests and their resources are used to improve the population's economic, environmental, social and cultural conditions, guaranteeing the conservation of resources to satisfy the needs of future generations. And furthermore, FAO is an active part of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, preparing official documentation, part of which is the assessment of progress made, including insufficiencies and deficiencies.
Once again we stress the imperious need for the eradication, once and for all, of productivist and reductionist conceptions of one of the most biodiversity-rich ecosystems --the forest. In order to analyse clearly what is happening with the forests, it is essential to establish a clear differentiation between plantations and forests. A plantation may be considered as positive or negative and it is good that the necessary conditions for it to be positive for people and the environment are discussed. But it can never be considered to be a forest. It is time that FAO's definitions on forests are definitively shelved --as part of the history of forest thinking-- and that it be explicitly recognised that a forest is much more than a collection of trees aimed at producing wood and that a plantation is not a forest. It would be an enormous contribution to the forthcoming Johannesburg summit meeting.
************************************************************ * EARTH SUMMIT COMMITMENTS ************************************************************
- The alternative forest treaty: NGOs complied with their commitments
It is worth remembering that during the 1992 Earth Summit (or United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) two processes took place simultaneously: the official summit and the parallel forum of non governmental and indigenous peoples organisations.
Governments were unable to reach an agreement on forests and they ended up by adopting a "Non-legally binding authoritative statement of principles for a global consensus on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests". Still, they did agree on Agenda 21's chapter 11: combatting "deforestation". Ten years later, however, forests keep on disappearing at the same rate as then.
On their part, civil society organisations and social movements agreed on a number of commitments in Rio, enshrined in the so called alternative treaties, one of which was the "forest treaty". It is very enlightening to re-read it now, because it is possible to verify that NGOs have basically fulfilled their commitments, in contrast with the almost complete failure from governments to comply with theirs. As an example, we will quote some of the commitments taken on by the NGOs in the alternative treaty, summarizing the relevant actions they have carried out. However, we recommend reading the entire document, which is accessible at the web address provided at the end of this article.
Among other commitments, NGOs agreed on the following:
* "Take the initiative in supporting local populations in the management, conservation and recovery of forests, with regard for the integrity of the forests, preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems, promotion of social justice and democracy and improvement of the quality of life of the local people".
That has precisely been one of the main activities carried out by NGOs during these past ten years. Both local communities and NGOs have had to do it in confrontation with governmental policies which would impact negatively on both biodiversity and social justice.
* "Formulate ... global proposals about forestry and climate policies, and will apply pressure so that government decisions on these subjects be taken jointly with other governments".
Among the many actions carried out in all the relevant international fora to implement this commitment, it is worth noting that NGOs and IPOs were in charge of implementing one of the Proposals for Action developed by the official process of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests: the implementation of a global workshop for the analysis of the underlying causes of deforestation. Among the more that one hundred proposals for action agreed upon by governments in that Forum, this was the only one to be truly implemented. Furthermore, the global workshop in Costa Rica was the culmination of a series of seven regional workshops and an Indigenous Peoples' workshop, which included a number of case studies and synthesis documents. The full results of the process were finally presented to the following United Nations Forum on Forests, which proceeded to first thank the organisers and then to immediately shelve the documentation.
* "Campaign for the conservation of forests, for survival and improvement in the quality of life for people living in forests, the implementation of development projects which reduce pressure on forests, and the elimination of pollutants".
Both the WRM and many other environmental organisations (Global Forest Coalition, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Oilwatch, Third World Network, International Network of Forests and Communities, Mangrove Action Project, to mention but some whose positions are included in this bulletin) and Indigenous Peoples' Organisations (including the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests), work on a permanent basis in this respect, and have carried out numerous campaigns on this issue.
* "Fight against political pressures caused by external debt, that increases the rate of deforestation and degradation of forest ecosystems; and suggest and encourage alternative economic models compatible with conservation of forest ecosystem".
NGOs from all over the world have been denouncing the destructive effects of market deregulation and trade liberalisation on forests and forest peoples --imposed by the power of transnationals within the globalisation framework-- which has in fact resulted in a further increased external debt.
Furthermore, the community forest management approach, originating from the social movements and the indigenous peoples' resistance, is also gaining strength as an alternative model, and within the WSSD process it is expressed in the Caucus on Community Forest Management.
* "Denounce forest practices that accelerate soil erosion and cause desertification, hydrological destabilization or habitat damage".
NGOs have constantly denounced large scale forestry practices promoted by governments and implemented by logging companies. They have also made strong efforts to find alternative management practices in the areas most prone to erosion and desertification.
* "Encourage coalition making and information exchange at regional, national and international levels for the purposes of this treaty".
This has been a permanent activity during the last ten years, where the existing networks have been strengthened and new ones have emerged --both among NGOs and with other organisations, particularly indigenous peoples and local communities' organisations-- which has broadened the range of a national, regional and international movement oriented towards the protection of forests and forest peoples' rights.
The above is just a very brief synthesis of the thousands of examples regarding the actions that social movements have been carrying out in their defence of forests, in line with what they had committed to in Rio. Their merit in having fulfilled this --and keeping on doing it-- is still greater taking into account that most actions have been carried out precisely against the policies of the same governments and international agencies that in Rio committed themselves to protecting the forests.
In sum: NGOs have fulfilled their commitments while governments have not complied with theirs.
The "Forest Treaty" is available at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/actors/WSSD/treaty.htm
************************************************************ * VOICES FOR THE FORESTS AT WSSD ************************************************************
- Selection of organized civil society opinions regarding forests
A large number of environmental, social and indigenous peoples organizations are concerned about the possible outcomes of the WSSD regarding the fate of the world's forests. The following is a brief summary of the major concerns of some of those organizations:
* International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forest
After stating that "the commitments taken on in Rio have been forgotten", the International Alliance goes on to say that "Many documents arising from the preparatory meetings and official documents for the Johannesburg Summit Meeting are distant from the spirit of chapter 26 of Agenda 21, our role as original peoples and our models of conservation and protection of the environment are not highlighted. Furthermore, the lack of political will from our governments in recognising and respecting the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples of the world have prevented the full and effective participation of the Indigenous Peoples."
The Alliance highlights the fact that the "development and conservation of tropical forests should be based on guaranteeing and ensuring our territories and basic rights. We are convinced that there cannot be sustainable development of forests without respect of our fundamental rights as peoples."
In line with the above, the Alliance considers that it is "important that the World Summit on Sustainable Development take up the principles of environmental responsibility, based on recognition of the rights of the Indigenous Peoples and local communities to manage and monitor the resources on which we depend and that the governments take on the obligatory task of maintaining or respecting the rights of the Indigenous Peoples or those of their other citizens. Less paper and more action to safeguard our Mother Earth."
The full statement of the Alliance is available at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/actors/WSSD/IPO.htm
* World Rainforest Movement/Friends of the Earth International
The following concepts are included in the recommendations of a joint WRM/FoEI publication on forests to be released in Johannesburg, calling on the WSSD, among other things, to "promote positive solutions to deforestation and forest degradation." That implies securing commitments at both national and international levels.
At the national level, the WSSD must
- Promote recognition of Indigenous Peoples' and local communities' land rights. - Support environmentally-sound small and medium-scale agricultural and forest management. - Promote land reforms that ensure equitable distribution of existing agricultural lands. - Foster development and livelihood patterns that incorporate forest biodiversity conservation in all productive activities.
At the international level, the WSSD must
- Promote positive changes within multilateral financial institutions (particularly the IMF and World Bank) to ensure that all their programmes and projects avoid negative impacts on forests, local communities and indigenous peoples, and include where appropriate a strong component of forest biodiversity conservation. - Push for similar changes in bilateral development and export-credit agencies. - Inform the relevant fora (e.g. WTO, IMF, World Bank) about the impacts of increased international trade on forests and ensure that those concerns are taken on board. - Ensure close collaboration between the Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity regarding the impacts of global warming on biodiversity and of deforestation on climate change. - Generate awareness about the impacts of increased consumption in the North on forests in the South as a first step to change current unsustainable consumption patterns."
WRM and FoEI positions on WSSD are available at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/actors/WSSD/index.html http://www.rio-plus-10.org
* Third World Network
TWN calls on organizations to get involved in the WSSD process because of the consequences the agreements to be reached in Johannesburg may have on people and the environment. Among other issues, TWN highlights the fact that:
"As a multilateral summit on sustainable development, its outcomes will affect the work of all civil society groups. Drafting and implementing a global programme for poverty alleviation, nature conservation, environmental sustainability and economic and social development is a task that should not be left to governments (and governments of the north to be precise), and certainly not at all to business lobbies."
Consequently, "civil society groups of all levels should contribute in monitoring, advocating and lobbying for a comprehensive plan of action to enable the fair and equitable sharing of the world's resources between the rich and the poor, north and south; and to protect the earth's ecology in order to safeguard the world's future. After all, the document emerging from Johannesburg will be a blueprint of life itself. It will be a missed opportunity if we let life slip us by."
Third World Network positions on WSSD are available at: http://www.twnside.org.sg/title/focus29.htm
* Global Forest Coalition
The GFC presses for the need "to fight/lobby to halt deforestation and forest degradation by addressing the underlying causes driving them." Additionally, it stresses the "need to strive for the 'de-corporation' (no more corporate/commercial interests defining the fate of forests) of forest control/management and fight for the devolution and restitution of forests to Indigenous Peoples and communities."
More specifically on WSSD, the GFC puts at the forefront the need to convince the public and decision makers "that the continuation of corporate control of forest areas, trade and management, has proven pernicious for forests in every aspect and that a new era of forest control, in the hands of communities and Indigenous Peoples is in order. Only in this way forests will become a vehicle of welfare and sustainable development, and only this way will ensure that forests continue providing all their environmental benefits."
* Greenpeace International
In line with the concerns of most civil society organizations involved in global processes, Greenpeace summarises the past ten years by saying that:
"Since the Rio Earth Summit ten years ago, there has been more rhetoric than action in protecting the environment and natural resources upon which all of our lives depend. While waving the flag of 'sustainable development' governments and corporations have continued largely with business as usual, pursuing a course of economic growth at any cost, with little respect for ecological limits. When action on some issue has been taken, it has been either because the environmental damage was so gross that governments could not hide, or because activist organisations have forced the change. It is extraordinary that in the 21st century, gross environmental abuse still continues. Globally, we are conducting a war on the environment. We need to make peace with the planet, and with one another. In the meantime, key promises, and treaty commitments and obligations, remain unfulfilled. Flagrantly unsustainable practices continue, unfair, unregulated and unpunished."
Greenpeace positions on WSSD are available at: http://archive.greenpeace.org/earthsummit/
* International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
The IUCN focuses on the "urgent need to understand that pro-poor forest conservation can contribute to poverty eradication in a number of ways, including protecting and expanding the asset base of the poor, improving governance, ensuring a more equitable distribution of costs and benefits and safeguarding livelihoods against economic shocks and natural disasters."
In order to link the social and environmental consequences of forest conservation, IUCN stresses that "practical approaches are needed that reconcile how forests are used to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits on an equitable basis. If this cannot be done, forest issues may slip further down the international agenda, including at the WSSD."
IUCN positions on WSSD are available at: http://www.iucn.org/wssd/policy_programmes_forest.htm
Oil extraction in the tropics results in both deforestation and forest degradation. The entire forest ecosystem --and forest peoples livelihoods-- are deeply affected: drinking water is poisoned; the air becomes polluted; wildlife becomes scarce; human rights are violated; local cultures are destroyed.
Taking into account those and other impacts associated with oil exploitation in the tropics, Oilwatch has encouraged, in various international fora, to call for a moratorium on new oil and gas explorations in the tropics. "We believe that the substitution of fossil fuels for renewable, decentralised and clean sources is an unconditional requirement ... if we want to talk seriously about doing something about Climate Change and about sustainability. Countries that are oil exporters should break their economic dependence with oil and gas and diversify their economy."
* International Network of Forests and Communities
The INFC summarises the current situation by stating that "national and international initiatives and negotiations have repeatedly failed to achieve "sustainability" for the world's forests and communities and that it is therefore "time for a different approach." This different approach is detailed in the "10 discussion points that the International Network of Forests and Communities is taking to Johannesburg. These '10 Points for Forests' might serve as a basis for exploring how we can build a stronger global forest movement --a movement towards sustainability designed and implemented by grassroots actors focused on the 'root' causes of forest loss and degradation."
The full 10 Points for Forests are available at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/actors/WSSD/INFC.htm
* Mangrove Action Project
MAP highlights the plight of one of the less publicised and more threatened forest ecosystems: mangroves.
After stating that less than 50% of mangroves still remain, and that of this remaining forest, over 50% is degraded, MAP details the causes leading to the current situation, among which "the consumer demand for luxury shrimp, or 'prawns', and the corresponding expansion of destructive production methods of export-oriented industrial shrimp aquaculture."
MAP therefore concludes that "any talk of conserving the Earth's biodiversity must include ways to ensure the restoration and conservation of mangrove forest ecosystems!"
The full MAP position is available at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/actors/WSSD/MAP.htm
World Rainforest Movement International Secretariat www.wrm.org.uy Rainforest Information Centre Box 368 Lismore NSW 2480 Australia www.rainforestinfo.org.au email@example.com 61 2 66213294