International Secretariat
Maldonado 1858; Montevideo, Uruguay
Web page:
Editor: Ricardo Carrere


- A positive reaction from CIFOR

Two weeks ago, the WRM and Oilwatch disseminated an open letter to David
Kaimowitz, Director of the Center for International Forestry Research
(CIFOR), expressing our concern over a CIFOR research paper "which appears
to give green credentials to two activities that are at the core of
deforestation and forest degradation: oil and mining." (see letter at

The resulting reactions have been very positive, particularly from CIFOR
itself. In spite of the strong wording of our letter, both Kaimowitz and
one of the authors of the paper (Sven Wunder) responded constructively to
our concerns. At the same time, CIFOR posted in its web page our letter
and their responses to it, thus enabling everyone to have a complete
picture of the discussion. We greatly appreciate this open attitude and we
have also linked the full responses to our web site (see "WRM News"

More importantly, our letter gave CIFOR the opportunity of clarifying its
views on the oil and mining industry by stating that "Our study in no way
discounts nor minimizes the negative direct consequences of oil and
mineral activities for forests and we certainly do not support either the
oil and mining industries large contribution to global warming or their
frequent role in promoting corruption and undermining the rule of law."

Additionally, Kaimowitz's response further clarifies CIFOR's position by
saying that "Our goal was definitely not to justify the oil and mining
industry. It was to show that the macroeconomic policies typically
associated with structural adjustment programs such as exchange rate
devaluations can have very negative impacts on forests. This helps to
strengthen the argument that the World Bank and national governments must
do environmental impact assessments of their structural adjustment
policies. The methodology used in the book also shows that it is in fact
possible to do environmental impact assessments of structural adjustment

By clarifying the above, CIFOR has now made it very difficult for the oil
and mining industry to use its study as a greenwashing tool. We also
appreciate this very much.

However, it might be very useful if CIFOR were to carry out a specific
research on the social and environmental impacts of oil and mining
activities in the same countries addressed in the study that motivated our
reaction. To go beyond the mere "forest cover" issue and document the
widespread impacts on people and the environment (human rights abuses,
loss of livelihoods, cultural impacts, disempowerment, water and air
pollution, biodiversity loss and so on), which can be described as forest
degradation. We would certainly be willing to collaborate with CIFOR in
this endeavour.

It is now perhaps necessary for us to clarify our position regarding CIFOR
in general. Contrary to what our letter may have led people to believe, we
have great respect towards both CIFOR and its Director. We reacted against
a specific research paper and not against the institution. We would have
probably not reacted at all if an oil industry consultant had produced the
study. CIFOR holds a well-deserved credibility among forest activists and
we would certainly not like it to lose it. Hence our strong and immediate
reaction to what we considered --and still consider-- to be a huge mistake
on its part.

We believe that our letter was necessary and that --fortunately-- the
resulting discussion has been extremely useful. There has been only one
loser: the oil and mining industry. David Kaimowitz ends his response
saying that: "CIFOR remains as willing and interested as ever in working
closely with both WRM and Oil Watch on the very many issues where we
strongly agree." And so do we.

Ricardo Carrere (WRM) and Esperanza Martínez (Oilwatch)