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IN WAKE OF MILITARY CRACKDOWN IN CHAD, WORLD BANK POISED TO APPROVE FUNDING FOR CONTROVERSIAL OIL PROJECT
International Lawmakers, Human Rights and Environment Groups, and Religious Leaders Warn the Project “Gambles with the Lives of the Poorest”
MONDAY, JUNE 5, 2000
Ottawa - As the directors of the World Bank prepare to vote tomorrow on whether to finance a controversial oil project in Chad and Cameroon, legislators, human rights and environmental groups, and religious leaders from around the world urged that the project not go forward at this time. The groups said the project in its current form threatens to exacerbate government corruption and repression against local citizens, harm the environment, and provide little if any economic benefits to the poorest in both nations.
The Bank’s vote, which could provide $365 million in loans to the governments of Chad and Cameroon, and to oil companies including ExxonMobil and Chevron, comes in the wake of recent threats by Chadian military officials to execute any citizens who oppose the project.
“The World Bank says its vision is a world free of poverty, yet it is gambling with the very lives of the poorest in Chad and Cameroon,” said Pamela Foster, Coordinator of the Ottawa-based Halifax Initiative. “Before the Bank supports any new oil development, it should first support the establishment in Chad and Cameroon of democratic reforms to ensure that citizens benefit from this project and are not harmed by it.”
Both Chad and Cameroon have a well-documented history of human rights abuses and corruption, conditions that, according to a Harvard University study, make it unlikely that oil revenues from the project will be invested in development programs to help the poor. Concerns from local citizens and indigenous groups about fair compensation, and about the potential for rainforest destruction and oil spills have not adequately been addressed by Bank, and have at times been met with brutal suppression by the governments.
US Rep.Dennis Kucinich has written to World Bank President James Wolfensohn expressing concern “over the human rights and environmental implications of the project,” and highlighted “apparent violations of several World Bank policies.” In Italy, national legislators are calling on that nation’s World Bank director to stop the project. In Germany, Protestant and Catholic organizations, as well as Amnesty International are making last minute appeals to the World Bank’s German director. Similar appeals are begin made by Canadian NGO’s to the Canadian Executive Director of the World Bank.
Religious organizations in Africa and the US have also expressed concern about the project which they shared with US Treasury Department officials in a meeting last Friday.
“The Catholic Bishops of Cameroon expressed grave concerns about environmental risks, plans for compensation, and participation of civil society in the project’s management, and we support their position,” said Father Michael Perry, Foreign Policy Adviser for the US Catholic Bishops Conference. “Should the World Bank move forward with this oil project, we will follow its implementation attentively.”
Chadian and Cameroonian civil society groups have called for a two-year moratorium on the project, in order to allow both countries to develop a proper legal framework, establish environmental safeguards and human rights protections, and set up an independent panel of local citizens and indigenous peoples to ensure that citizens benefit from the oil extraction.
The project involves the drilling of 300 oil wells in Chad, extraction of 225,000 barrels of oil per day (peak production), and the construction of a 650-mile long pipeline through Chad and Cameroon. The pipeline route cuts through farmland and natural forests en route to an offshore terminal on the coast of Kribi in Cameroon, from which point the oil would be exported for sale to industrialized nations.
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For further information, contact: Pamela Foster, (613) 789-4447