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The World Bank's endeavours to reform the forest concessions' regime in Central Africa: Lessons from 25 years of efforts

Karsenty A.. 2017. International Forestry Review, 19 (S2) : p. 64-79.

DOI: 10.1505/146554817822295948

At the beginning of the 1990s, the World Bank introduced conditionalities to reform the forest concession regime in Central Africa and continuously intervened, inter alia, in Cameroon, Congo, Gabon and the DRC up to 2010. The reforms were designed to achieve two immediate objectives: (i) increase the price of the resource through competitive market procedures or, if inapplicable, through taxation, (ii) break down the patronage system that governed the forest permits allocation. These efforts have been supported by national reformers, and fought against by various vested interests such as the timber companies, but also officials in the forest departments. Because of the difficult political economy, reform ambitions have been lowered, and only a certain proportion of the policy measures initially contemplated has been implemented. This called for a completion of the reform agenda and fine tuning. But by the middle of the 2000s, the evolution of paradigms in tropical forestry gave the critics of the WB policy of concession reforms opportunities to challenge the orientations followed hitherto in Central Africa. The 2013 Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) report of the WB forestry policy, criticizing the WB's management efforts to reform concession regimes in Africa, testified to this change of paradigm. The critics are of mixed mind, with community advocates favoring more pressure on the African governments to dismantle the concession regime and proponents of "performance-based aid" seeing REDD+ as an opportunity to withdraw from direct sectoral intervention. Paradoxically, in spite of REDD+ initiatives and rhetoric, forestry has tumbled in the national policy agendas and forest concessions or protected areas are encroached by agribusiness plantations and mines with the implicit support of large fractions within governments.

Mots-clés : forêt; forêt tropicale; Économie forestière; abattage d'arbres; législation; réglementation forestière; aménagement forestier; fixation des prix; politique forestière; protection de la forêt; marché; afrique centrale; cameroun; république démocratique du congo; gabon; concession

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