The Congo Basin Forest Partnership

By WND Staff

In school, we were taught about the explorers who discovered the New World – Christopher Columbus (America), Francisco Pizarro (Peru), Vasco Nunez de Balboa (Pacific Ocean), Juan Ponce de Leon (Florida), Ferdinand Magellan (sailed around the world) and Hernando Cortez (Mexico). Then, who can forget the piracy of Francis Drake’s Golden Hind that netted so much booty that Queen Elizabeth knighted him?

However, did you know that there are “New 21st-century Explorers” who have laid claim to the world’s biological diversity? In an interview with Dr. Paul Jeffers from the Royal Society for the Protection of the Birds, he and his colleagues have put a value on the global value of nature (i.e., biological diversity which is defined as “the exuberant richness of life on Earth, the vast array of different kinds of life from bacteria to whales, from grasses to giant yellowwoods, to the full variety of organisms on land and sea through all levels of classification, from individuals, to populations, to species, genera, families, orders, classes and broader levels of groupings” – “Towards Gondwana Alive”) of $20 trillion to $38 trillion, while others say it might be as high as $51 trillion.

This, basically, is greater than all of the monies in the stock market, banks and insurance companies. Did you catch that? God never put a value on the birds, forests, rivers, oceans, flowers or trees, yet some enterprising robber barons have done so – in order to stake their claim.

What this means is that the environment is literally the New World of the 21st century! No wonder the world has gone bananas over a few fleas and shrubs! How dumb of you and me to miss this. Can you imagine that all the fuss over the environment was really more than hugging a tree? I can’t stand naive people!

Let’s take a look at how the claims are being staked out. It is called “sustainable development.” Over the years, it has evolved from the world having too many people (which is still the case) to a three-prong approach: economic (business and public-private partnerships), environmental (preserving nature) and social (transfer of wealth to help the poor). At the World Summit for Sustainable Development which recently concluded, the newly announced Congo Basin Forest Partnership not only exemplifies this three-fold definition, but it basically encapsulates the entire “Agenda 21 Programme of Action,” which is the roadmap for exploration and piracy.

For 10 years, the U.N. has been gradually unveiling the hidden agenda of public-private partnership. While it was not even mentioned in Rio, it was finally defined and revealed in 1996 at the Habitat II conference in Istanbul. Since then, public-private partnership has gradually become part of every government’s change from representative government to corporately managed government by business. In fact, Prince Charles – the Prince of Wales – has an organization that has been writing the “how-to” books on partnerships for the last 10 years as they have perfected the structure and status.

The Congo Basin Forest Partnership is, first of all, a public-private partnership. It is a business arrangement to make money – this is not charity! This partnership is complex as it has 30 partners: the U.S., UK, Belgium, Canada, Japan, Germany and France; developing countries include the governments of the Congo Basin: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of Congo and South Africa; non-governmental organizations include: Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund, World Resources Institute, Forest Trends, the Society of American Foresters and the Jane Goodall Institute; corporations include: American Forest and Paper Association, Center for International Forestry Research, IUCN-the World Conservation Union, the World Bank, the Smithsonian Institution and the International Tropical Timber Organization.

The United States will contribute over $50 million over four years while the major international NGOs will contribute $37.5 million which will be used to manage protected areas and capacity building for local communities in order to develop eco-tourism. The total number of acres under conservation is over 74 million acres!

In an interview with John F. Turner, assistant secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State, I asked the same question, three different ways: “In exchange for $50 million of U.S. taxpayer monies, what will be our return – interest income, a portion of profits – what?” To no avail, Mr. Turner was not going to answer such a simple, straightforward question about how our hard-earned taxpayer dollars are being spent. This, by the way, is an example of the real loss of representative government through public-private partnership.

Some enterprising reporter reworded my question and asked if a “debt-for-equity swap” was being considered. Mr. Turner acknowledged that that was a direct possibility. If you want to know how the debt burden of Africa is going to be reduced or eliminated, this is it. They will give up maybe one acre – or, perhaps if we are generous in our terms 10 or 100 acres – for every dollar these African countries owe the U.S. (the World Bank and the others will have their own terms) and we will then own a certain percentage of the vast Congo Basin Forest Partnership and they will be out of debt.

Now, let us consider two of the international NGOs involved in this partnership so that you can see how partnerships are constructed and operate.

The U.S.-based World Wildlife Fund is one part of the 29 international corresponding organizations which Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh presides over. Maurice Strong, for a long time, worked with Prince Philip, as well as Prince Charles, who worked behind the scenes in 1991 to ensure that “Agenda 21” was approved at the Rio Earth Summit. As mentioned earlier, the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum has perfected the structure of public-private partnerships. The board of directors has close ties to the Rockefellers and major donors include Chevron, Exxon, Philip Morris, Mobil and others.

Conservation International founder Peter Seligmann, did a debt-for-nature swap in Bolivia in 1987. In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, he explained that 2 million acres were set aside as a biosphere preserve with only native Indians using it with 2 million acres set aside around it as a sustainable-development region with the idea of developing it for cattle, for timber, for fisheries, for farming and for whatever could make money without destroying it.

What can we conclude? The names are different, and the lands are different, but the agenda is the same: grab it, claim it, control it and squeeze it. Begun 10 years ago in Rio, sustainable development is now a plan of action for all, especially poor countries. Lastly, I asked John Turner if what was happening in the Congo was an example of the “failed state.” He replied that, “It’s an example of partners coming together and listening to the hopes and dreams of people in impoverished areas to help them have a better future.”


Joan Veon is a certified financial planner and is president of Veon Financial Services, Inc., an investment advisory firm. Visit her website, WomensGroup.org.