NGO says World Bank palm oil policy will hurt developing countries

Palm nuts

An NGO has written to key executives of the World Bank drawing attention to the repercussions its draft framework on palm oil would have on developing countries.

In an email sent to, the NGO, World Growth warned that the draft frame work would have ‘major repercussions’ on developing countries, arguing that the draft framework, as written would also go against the World Bank’s mandate of alleviating poverty through economic growth.

The group’s Chairman, Alan Oxley said “Poverty alleviation has been a worthy vision throughout the World Bank’s history, and still is today. The World Bank has recognized that palm oil is one of the most successful poverty alleviation tools globally and as an important food in the developing world.”

“Despite this, the palm oil framework under consideration would restrict the capacity of the World Bank to support the development of the palm oil industry and instead sets the World Bank up as a global regulator of environmental standards rather than as an agent for alleviating poverty,” he indicated.

According to Oxley, “The World Bank has historically aligned itself with pro-development and pro-growth policies. Unfortunately, this has changed.”

He argued that, “It is deeply disconcerting that this review was prompted by environmental NGOs like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the WWF. These groups have a track record of putting politics and ideology first, which is too often out of step with mainstream views and endangers the path to prosperity for millions.”

The World Bank’s Developing Committee is meeting on October 9, 2010 as part of the Bank’s annual meeting in Washington and World Growth has written ahead of the meeting.

World Growth is a non-profit, non-governmental organization established to expand the research, information, advocacy, and other resources to improve the economic conditions and living standards in developing and transitional countries, the NGO has said in an email to

In the Executive Summary of the Draft Framework on Palm Oil, The World Bank Group, indicates among other things that with its primary mission of poverty reduction, sees the palm oil sector as an important contributor to furthering economic development in many developing countries.

The World Bank Group is aware of the sector’s negative environmental and social impacts, including deforestation, biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions, land use conflicts, and questions over land tenure and human rights.

In recent years, it says, strong efforts have been made to better understand and address these challenges. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s (RSPO’s) protocols are an encouraging contribution, but there is still significant scope for moving the industry to a more sustainable footing.

It adds that drawing on lessons from past experience and global analysis, and in partnership with others, the World Bank Group has the potential to help induce positive change at the national and industry level to deepen positive development impacts, encourage sustainable practices and limit further deforestation.

On how to engage with the palm oil sector, the World Bank Group has defined four key themes that will frame its future engagement in the sector it says.

These are:
• Supporting the development of an enabling policy and regulatory environment

• Mobilizing socially and environmentally sustainable private sector investment

• Encouraging benefit sharing with smallholders and communities

• Supporting sustainability codes of practice.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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