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Congo pygmies appeal to World Bank over logging

A delegation of rainforest pygmies from Democratic Republic of Congo will fly to Washington this week to complain to the World Bank about its support for wholesale logging to help rebuild the war-ravaged economy.

The visit follows a leak of a report last week by the bank’s inspection panel that criticised it for backing a number of logging projects without adequate consideration of their sociological or environmental impact.

”We are going to Washington to tell the World Bank that they must not allow any expansion of the logging industry,” pygmy spokesperson Adrian Sinafasi said in a statement released by the Rainforest Foundation, which is accompanying the delegation.

”We have been stewards of these forests for many generations and to lose them now would be utterly devastating.”

The delegation hopes to meet new World Bank president Robert Zoellick, who has said that protecting the environment and indigenous peoples will be two of his main priorities.

Since the restoration of peace in most of the former Zaire after a 1998 to 2003 war, the World Bank has promoted logging as a way of quickly rebuilding the country’s shattered economy.

Last week’s leaked report — prompted by a complaint from the pygmies — criticised the bank for failing to follow its own guidelines on environmental impact assessments, on the verification of logging areas, and on policing.

It also accused it of hugely overestimating the potential benefits to the pygmies.

The Rainforest Foundation, a charity whose mission is to support indigenous peoples in the world’s rainforests, said more than 40-million Congolese depended on the rainforests for their livelihood.

”The indigenous ”Pygmy” people of the DRC have fought hard to have their voices heard. The recent panel report was instigated by these people and the findings have shamed the World Bank,” said director Simon Counsell.

”Now the ‘Pygmies’ have the chance to meet face to face with the organisation that risked devastating their forests. Hopefully president Zoellick and his colleagues will listen to what we have to say and commit to working with them to protect Congo’s forests in the future.” – Reuters

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