International Secretariat
Maldonado 1858, Montevideo, Uruguay
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Editor: Ricardo Carrere
W R M   B U L L E T I N   61
August     2002 - English edition
This bulletin is now also available in French, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Please let us know if you wish to receive it in some of these languages.
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
In this issue:
- The fox in charge of the hen house
- Forest peoples: A ray of hope
- Community Forest Management: A feasible and necessary alternative
- The causes of deforestation and those responsible for it
- 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
- The alternative forest treaty: NGOs complied with their commitments
- Selection of organized civil society opinions regarding forests
- 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
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.
- 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
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, ; "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,
- 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
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
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
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 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, ; "Social
Responsibility and the Mechanical Bull: The International Chamber of
Commerce Dresses for Success", ; "Exporting Enron
Environmentalism: The Bush Vision for Johannesburg", Victor Menotti,
International Forum on Globalization, ; Press Release
of the Alert against the Green Desert Movement, Vitoria, 14 August 2002.
Contact e-mail:
- 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
- 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
- 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:
- 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,
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:
- 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:
(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,
- 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
- 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
By: Victor Menotti, International Forum on Globalization, e-mail:"
- 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
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.
- 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
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
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:
- 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
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:
* 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
- 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
- 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:
* 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
"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:
* 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:
* 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
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:
* Oilwatch
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:
* 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:

World Rainforest Movement
International Secretariat
Rainforest Information Centre
Box 368 Lismore
NSW 2480
61 2 66213294