The Guardian June 7, 2000


Forest destruction. Report suppressed

A critical report about widespread destruction of tropical rainforest by 
multinational companies has been suppressed for three years by its sponsors 
because they feared negative repercussions. The report was commissioned by 
the European Commission and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). It named 
companies prepared to bribe and intimidate their way into lucrative logging 
contracts most of which are Asian.

The authors were so disturbed by the report's revelations that they 
recommended an immediate moratorium on all further logging in 11 countries 
 Cameroon, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, The 
Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Guyana, Surinam, Belize, Papua 
New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. It blames the main donors to these 
countries  Japan, the EU, France, Germany, Britain and the US  because 
they fail to apply their own rules in promoting forest conservation and 
responsible management practices. It also blames the IMF and the World Bank 
for forcing countries to sell their forests for a quick cash return so that 
they can repay their debts to Western countries. On top of that the IMF and 
World Bank compound the destruction by imposing monetary reform.

Foreign companies are able to exploit these countries as there is 
widespread corruption, poor taxation collection facilities and auditing 
capacity, and weak forestry management practices. While European companies 
in the past had engaged in bad practices the scale of the present 
destruction was so bad that the remaining virgin forest of the Pacific, 
Central Africa and the Caribbean rim will be obliterated within five to ten 
years unless urgent action is taken now. The authors recommended that the 
EU suspend aid until these issues are addressed but the EU has taken no 
action.

The first edition of the report was completed in 1997 but was blocked last 
July by the WWF because it was concerned that its offices may be closed 
down in some countries. Because many of the companies named were Asian the 
WWF was also concerned at appearing to be Asian-bashing especially as its 
first draft was produced at the time of the Asian economic crisis. The new 
investment by Asian multinational companies has been in countries with weak 
environmental and social laws and little capacity to enforce the laws that 
do apply.

The European Commission, which paid US$300,000 for the work, feared the 
repercussions if the report went ahead with the names of the transnational 
corporations listed so they asked for a second version with the names taken 
out. But this was still too strong and a third draft has been made and is 
to be published in June. All the original research was peer-reviewed by 
other forestry experts in the countries concerned and the authors Dominiek 
Plouvier and Nigel Sizer stand by their original work.

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