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Tuesday, June 6, 2000 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: Germany Corruption Scandal, Nazis and the CIA
2000-06-06

Chad/Cameroon Pipeline Debate

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The World Bank Board of Executive Directors vote today on whether to provide $365 million in taxpayer-financed loans to a consortium led by ExxonMobil and Chevron for a massive oil and pipeline project in the African countries of Chad and Cameroon. [includes rush transcript]

Activists say the project 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 World Bank says the pipeline provides a unique opportunity to improve the development prospects of Chad by generating substantial additional fiscal revenues and foreign exchange. It also says it will generate about $500 million for Cameroon.

The project involves the drilling of 300 oil wells in Chad, extraction of 225,000 barrels of oil per day 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 Cameroon. From there, the oil would be exported for sale to so-called industrialized nations.

The Bank’s vote comes in the wake of recent threats by Chadian military officials to execute any citizens who oppose the project. Chadian and Cameroonian civil society groups are calling 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.

Guests:

  • Korinna Horta, Economist at the Environmental Defense Fund. Horta has been very active in the campaign against the Chad/Cameroon Pipeline.
  • Robert Calderisi, Spokesperson on Africa for the World Bank.
  • Delphine Djiraibe, a well-known Chadian human rights activist and lawyer. She is currently doing a law fellowship with the Center for International Environmental Law.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The World Bank Board of Executive Directors votes today on whether to provide $365 million in taxpayer-financed loans to a consortium led by ExxonMobil and Chevron for a massive oil and pipeline project in the African countries of Chad and Cameroon.

Activists say the project 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 World Bank says the pipeline provides a unique opportunity to improve the development prospects of Chad by generating substantial additional fiscal revenues and foreign exchange. It also says it will generate about $500 million for Cameroon.

The Bank’s vote comes in the wake of recent threats by Chadian military officials to execute any citizens who oppose the project. Chadian and Cameroonian civil society groups are calling 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.

We’re joined right now by Robert Calderisi, spokesperson for the World Bank on Africa, and Korinna Horta, an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund.

Let’s begin with Robert Calderisi. Can you outline the scope, the scale of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline?

ROBERT CALDERISI:

Yes. First of all, I should say that we’re lending rather less money than you pointed out at the [inaudible] less than $200 million. And it’s not taxpayer-provided funds, but actually money we’ve borrowed ourselves from the international markets, which we really want to put at the disposal of these two countries.

For Chad, it represents really an unparalleled opportunity to brighten its future. I mean, most people in Chad live on less than $1 a day, and they’ve been waiting for thirty years to develop these oil fields in the south of the country. And the project, which will cost $3.7 billion is going to be the largest private-sector investment in Africa in the next five years, and almost all of it will be funded by the private companies involved.

AMY GOODMAN:

Korinna Horta of the Environmental Defense Fund, first tell us where Chad and Cameroon are. And then, can you lay out your concerns about the project?

KORINNA HORTA:

Chad and Cameroon are in a volatile part of West and Central Africa. And basically what you have is you have findings of oil in Chad, which is a landlocked country, and in order to get this oil to the market, you have to build a 650-mile pipeline through the country of Cameroon. And the pipeline will cross all the major waterways in the country. It will cross fragile rainforest areas, which are the home to indigenous peoples. And it will enter the ocean in a coastal area that is still largely pristine and which is very rich in terms of fishing resources for the local economy.

The concerns that we have are multiple. They have to do with the lack of democracy in the two countries, and therefore the lack of recourse of local people to do anything when they are affected by pollution, let’s say, from oil leaks or from oil spills, or, you know, when they are affected by not getting proper compensation for their losses of land and trees, which are essential to their livelihoods, or when they are being displaced.

May I just continue by responding a little bit to what the representative of the World Bank said?

AMY GOODMAN:

Yes, go ahead.

KORINNA HORTA:

He kind of downplayed the World Bank’s role in this project by saying, you know, these are not taxpayer-supported funds that the World Bank is using. These are — the World Bank is going to use its hard loan window for these projects, although both Chad and Cameroon are considered to be very poor countries. Hard loans means its interest rate is very close to market interest rate. But nevertheless, these loans are supported by taxpayers.

First of all, the major shareholding governments to the World Bank pay in a part of these IBRD funds into the World Bank funds. But for the rest, the money that the Bank is able to raise on private capital markets for this type of lending is also backed by collateral from official, you know, public funds from all the major shareholding countries, the US being the largest of it, followed by Japan and several of the European countries.

In addition, the International Finance Corporation, which is the private-sector branch of the World Bank, is also going to invest heavily in the project. And its investments will help trigger the investments of hundreds of millions of additional dollars from other sources, including export credit agencies such as the Ex-Im Bank in the United States or COFACE in France, as well as of private commercial banks.

So, you know, the role of the Bank in this project is fundamental, and the entire project, according to the oil companies led by Exxon-Mobil, the project would not go ahead without participation from the Bank.

AMY GOODMAN:

We’re also joined on the telephone by Delphine Djiraibe, who is a well-known Chadian human rights activist and lawyer currently doing a law fellowship at the Center for International Environmental Law in Washington, D.C. Delphine Djiraibe is going to be translated as she speaks French. What are your concerns about the project in Chad? The World Bank, as we’ve heard Robert Calderisi say, is hoping that this project will enrich the people of Chad.

DELPHINE DJIRAIBE: [translated] Hello. I think that the project cannot have any benefits for the population, the local population, in Chad in the condition that — current conditions, because the situation in Chad on the human rights front, from the perspective of the legal framework and the capacity for managing this project, are not ready.

There is also a climate of repression right now that makes it so the people cannot speak freely. And there’s a general situation of insecurity in the country with the rebellion in the north — there are pockets of rebellion in the south — and recently people were clearly threatened vis-à-vis this situation and particularly if they are opposed to the oil extraction.

AMY GOODMAN:

Robert Calderisi of the World Bank, does this concern you?

ROBERT CALDERISI:

Well, let’s back up a little bit. I mean, the reason for the World Bank involvement in this project is close to what groups who are still criticizing the project are saying, which is that the two great challenges in the project are to protect the environment and also ensure that the oil money is used properly for the benefit of Chadians. We think — I didn’t mean to downplay the Bank’s involvement by saying our share of the total financing is small. In fact, our role has been quite important and, we hope, positive.

As a result of our involvement, the pipeline route has been changed in several areas, as a result of which only four square miles of forest will be affected along the entire 660-mile pipeline route. To compensate for that, two large national parks are being established in Cameroon with 500 times as much of an area, about 2,000 square miles, which will be protected. Not a single house or village will be affected along the route. There will be a small number of families affected where the oil wells will be sunk.

And with respect to the use of the money, we think, and international commentators have agreed, that what the government of Chad has agreed to do for — to ensure oversight in the use of the oil revenues is unprecedented and really sets an example for how other oil projects could be developed in Africa.

We agree with people who still think that, you know, there are issues of capacity and even governance, both in Chad and Cameroon. But our judgment is that, particularly in Chad, which has had a very troubled history over forty years, that there’s been real progress in the last five years. The situation is not perfect, but it’s very much in the right direction.

And we also think it’s wrong to lump Chad and Cameroon together with extreme cases like Nigeria, Sudan and Zaire in the 1990s, where the World Bank shut down all of its operations, because we agreed that any use of development assistance in those countries would not be productive. We think there is an opportunity to do good through this project, and we think it’s an opportunity we should help Chad seize.

But there are still risks. And we count on the continued involvement and oversight of people within Chad and Cameroon and also people around the world who have an interest in seeing this project succeed.

AMY GOODMAN:

What about this issue that Delphine Djiraibe just raised of increased repression right now for people who speak out against the pipeline in Chad?

ROBERT CALDERISI:

We have no evidence ourselves — and we, you know, have people on the ground —- of increased threats to people in Chad. In fact -—

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, let me ask…

ROBERT CALDERISI:

In fact, discussion of this project has been one of —- a training ground both in Chad and Cameroon for the involvement of civil society in public policy, generally. And everybody acknowledges -—

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, let —

ROBERT CALDERISI:

— including the non-government communities, groups in both countries, that World Bank involvement has ensured a higher level of information and debate publicly than perhaps otherwise would have been the case. And we think this debate will and should continue as the project is implemented. There are still four years to go before the pipeline is in place. And that gives us and all concerned a chance to build better information and capacity for monitoring the environmental, social and economic impact of the project.

AMY GOODMAN:

Delphine Djiraibe, what evidence do you have that there is increased repression in Chad?

DELPHINE DJIRAIBE: [translated] Recently, the military authority went to the region, the oil extracting region, to face the rebellion in the south and have clearly threatened the population, asking them to denounce the rebels or face execution. If they dare oppose the oil extraction project, they will face the same situation.

They particularly reminded them, reminded the population, of what happened in ’97 and ’98, the whole massacres. Given the situation on the ground, it would be very, very dangerous for the people to reveal the sources of information.

ROBERT CALDERISI:

Can I add something on this?

AMY GOODMAN:

Yes, Robert Calderisi of the World Bank.

ROBERT CALDERISI:

Because, you know, I’ve been to the project area myself. And as of July 1, I’m going to be responsible for the Bank’s work in these countries, so I have a personal interest in following up on these allegations.

But my own sense of the conditions in southern Chad is that the people have — are able to express themselves openly. No one we met, even the people who are most in favor of a delay of the project, were opposed to the project. It would be rather odd for any Chadian to object to having these resources developed for the good of the country.

The real debate is whether people can trust this government. And there are certainly people who would like to wait until the next elections in two years’ time to see what government there will be, and they hope it’ll be a government they’re more comfortable with. But the World Bank can’t wait for elections to occur before proposing a project that we think, as we do in this case, that all of the safeguards that could possibly be designed are already included in the design of the project.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, I’d like you to hang on the line for one minute. Stations just have to break to identify themselves. Robert Calderisi, spokesperson for the World Bank on Africa, Korinna Horta from the Environmental Defense Fund, and Delphine Djiraibe, well-known Chadian human rights activist now here in Washington, D.C., a law fellow at the Center for International Environmental Law. You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN:

You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! the Exception to the Rulers. I’m Amy Goodman. As we continue with the debate on the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, again, the World Bank Board of Executive Directors will be voting today on whether to provide hundreds of millions of dollars to a consortium led by ExxonMobil and Chevron for a massive oil and pipeline project in the African countries of Chad and Cameroon.

I wanted to raise the issue of these oil companies and their records, particularly Chevron. Longtime Democracy Now! listeners know the exposé that Jeremy Scahill and I did two years ago in Nigeria documenting Chevron’s involvement in the killing of two Nigerian environmentalists who were protesting the oil spills in an area where Chevron did work, protesting the lack of compensation to communities. And last year, I had a chance to go to the Chevron shareholder meeting, where I asked the CEO of Chevron, Ken Derr, if he would tell the Nigerian military, which Chevron admitted bringing onto sites, which was known for opening fire on people, if he would tell them to stop killing people on their sites. And this is what he said.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    But have you officially demanded that they not shoot protesters on your site?

    KEN DERR:

    I don’t know if we’ve officially demanded it. I think it goes without saying that nobody —

    AMY GOODMAN:

    Will you officially demand it?

    KEN DERR:

    No! I mean, that’s ridiculous! OK, next question.

AMY GOODMAN:

That was Ken Derr saying that they would not demand the Nigerian military not open fire on protesters. He said, "That’s ridiculous!" Robert Calderisi, spokesperson for the World Bank on Africa, your response?

ROBERT CALDERISI:

Well, we’re not — we’ve had no involvement in the Niger Delta, Nigeria, so we have no direct knowledge of Chevron’s involvement there. And the — and, of course, the matter is in the US courts at the moment. But in this case, the lead member of the private consortium financing the project and the operator is ExxonMobil. Chevron and Petronas are passive partners in the project. And we think Exxon’s record so far in Chad and Cameroon is quite admirable.

AMY GOODMAN:

Let me ask Korinna Horta of the Environmental Defense Fund, is this a concern of yours, the —-

KORINNA HORTA: It is a great concern. And, you know, Chevron -— you may have reported on this —- is now facing a US court case. A Northern California district judge ruled a few months ago that the case can proceed against Chevron for human rights abuses committed in Nigeria. The other -—

AMY GOODMAN:

Specifically for the killing of these two activists.

KORINNA HORTA:

Yes, exactly, for the — specifically for the killing of these Nigerian people.

The other so-called passive partner is Petronas, the Malaysian oil company. Petronas is very active in the oil project in neighboring Sudan, which, according to a recent study commissioned by Canada’s foreign minister, is intensifying the seventeen-year-old civil war in Sudan. So, you know, the oil revenues are fueling the war in Sudan.

As for ExxonMobil, the admirable record that the World Bank representative talked about, we haven’t seen much of it actually. We think that any little concession that has been made so far on the project has been the result of enormous international pressure, first from non-governmental organizations, human rights organizations, environmental organizations, the churches, and then from governments. Nothing has been granted, you know, freely like the rerouting of the pipeline, which Mr. Calderisi mentioned previously. You know, the oil companies have not been able to come up with an oil spills response plan, really, you know, the basic document, the basic component of any environmental impact assessment for, you know, an oil project, especially for one of this type of magnitude. It was only after intense international pressure and, you know, the intervention of, you know, the US government and other governments that an oil spills response plan was finally prepared at the end of last year. And still that one is rather incomplete.

So, you know, we are very, very concerned about ExxonMobil’s role in this project, as well. And the CEO of Exxon has gone on record in the Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago saying that poor countries cannot afford to protect their environment. Otherwise they risk that, you know, investments will be taken elsewhere. So it seems that he is not recognizing, you know, how, you know, much people in developing countries depend on their immediate environment for their livelihoods in a very, very direct fashion. And by not protecting their environment, you know, they are — he is undermining, you know, their possibilities of survival.

AMY GOODMAN:

It looks very much like the World Bank Board of Executive Directors will be approving this pipeline project today, just a few minutes after, perhaps, we speak. Delphine Djiraibe, as a Chadian human rights activist, where do you now go from here?

DELPHINE DJIRAIBE: [translated] I would like to come back to what Mr. Calderisi said. It must be clear that we are not opposed to the project, the oil project, but we are saying that under the current conditions, if this project goes forward, there will be no benefits for the local population and for the Chadians in the large majority.

The problems that are left that need to be resolved with regard to the human rights situation, the rights of the population, the problems of compensation, the problems of the legal framework in Chad to ensure the good management of these problems.

He has also said that the Bank cannot wait anymore. So the question that we ask is, is the problem about — is the problem to help the populations in Chad and ensure that all the guarantees are in place so that there is a real poverty alleviation in Chad? Or is it a question of timing for the World Bank? They cannot wait for the elections, for example. Then I think — then the situation is clear, and the Bank is just doing whatever it wants without taking into account the concerns of the population.

ROBERT CALDERISI:

Ms. Goodman? Can I —

AMY GOODMAN:

Yes? Robert Calderisi of the World Bank.

ROBERT CALDERISI:

Can I break in? Unfortunately, I have to actually go to our board meeting in two minutes, and I’m running late. But all I could say is that obviously we’ve been talking to a large number of people in Chad and Cameroon and many community groups, as well as people in the project area. And we’re trying to respect all that we’ve heard and learned from those groups, and they will continue to be involved in the implementation of the project.

It’s been a feature of this — the debate around this project that we’ve been seeking, rather than resisting, the views of all concerned. And we think that the safeguards that have been introduced in the project as planned, both on the environment and on social protection and the use of the oil revenues, are going to set an example, if they’re properly implemented, of how oil can be developed in poor countries.

Now, the real test begins now. We’re just put the beginning of the journey on this. And we’re acting on the basis of a track record of a government in Chad, which other people find too short, but we think it’s a positive one, and we should be building on it rather than harking back to a more troubled past. But we’re going —

AMY GOODMAN:

And the —

ROBERT CALDERISI:

— we’re going to continue to encourage debate about this project during the four years it will take to construct the pipeline. We’re going to continue to want to learn how to do the project better. And we think this openness is crucial to how the project will be done, not just to how it has been prepared. I really do have to sign off, I’m afraid.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, thank you for being with us.

ROBERT CALDERISI:

And I welcome the chance to talk about this.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, thank you for being with us. Korinna Horta, we’ll give you the last word, economist at Environmental Defense Fund.

KORINNA HORTA:

Mr. Calderisi, you know, mentioned the World Bank’s openness, you know, to civil society. And really that is the big point for us, that local people be given a voice in this. And they haven’t. They have not, because, you know, during, you know, so-called consultation processes in the region, who the oil company representatives or bank representatives are usually accompanied by armed guards. In a country that has this type of experience with civil war, this is enormously intimidating, and no kind of consultation was possible.

The World Bank has just — is just not yet ready to listen, it appears. It just, a couple of weeks ago, invited several members of civil society from Chad and Cameroon for talks at the World Bank. The majority of these people, including very high officials of the Catholic Conferences of one of the countries, of Cameroon, officials from Protestant organizations, all of them voiced the same concerns that Ms. Djiraibe has voiced on this program and in many things that she has published before. And, you know, still the Bank has not listened.

The Bank is not even listening to its own literature. All the recent literature put out by the Bank on how to make development effective, you know, how to make sure that, you know, funding for development is not wasted, points out that the very first things you have to do is you have to build the institutions in the countries. You have to create the capacity. And those are long-term efforts and things that need to be in place before you can, you know, go ahead with a project of this tremendous magnitude, which will affect, you know, millions of people in both countries and will affect the countries for generations to come.

AMY GOODMAN:

I want to thank you all for being with us. Korinna Horta and Delphine Djiraibe, are there places that people can go on the web on or call to find out more information and to monitor this project? Korinna Horta, an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund.

KORINNA HORTA:

Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN:

Can you tell us a website or phone number that people can find out more information?

KORINNA HORTA:

Yes, certainly at the website of the Center for International Environmental Law, where Ms. Djiraibe has her law fellowship at the moment. I guess it is www.centerforinternationalenvironmentallaw.com, or at the website of Environmental Defense, which is www.environmentaldefense.com.

AMY GOODMAN:

Thank you, Korinna Horta and Delphine Djiraibe, well-known Chadian human rights activist at the Center for International Environmental Law in Washington.

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