World Bank climate envoy takes on Jagdeo
– says Bank wants to ensure Norway funds are ‘well used’
By Neil Marks in Cancun, Mexico
The World Bank’s climate change enjoy, Andrew Steer, has defended the Bank’s delay in disbursing funds to Guyana under the forest-saving deal with Norway, saying the Bank wants to ensure the money is well used.
“Why would your President say the World Bank is a problem?” Steer responded when asked to comment on President Bharrat Jagdeo’s accusation in late October that “silly, useless” World Bank officials were stalling the release of the funds.
Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) is the foundation of the five-year agreement with Norway, which has agreed to have the World Bank administer the fund of US$250 million.
But Jagdeo, at a meeting of Amerindian leaders, on October 25, last, said that the release of the first tranche of the funding – US$30 million – was being stymied by the World Bank. He said that the first set of funds should have been deposited into a special World Bank fund since January. The Guyana REDD Investment Fund, through which the money will be administered, was set up in early October.
“Maybe it’s because we were asked to do something by the other party (Norway) and we have to do it otherwise we are not fulfilling our obligations,” said Steer in response to Jagdeo’s allegations that the Bank was delaying the release of the funds.
“If you put money in, and you are Norway, there are certain things you want. You want to know you’re getting the results. Who checks the results? Did Norway, or do we just trust Guyana? You also want to ensure that that money is well used. You also want to ensure that, for example, environmental safeguards and social safeguards are kept,” said Steer, who is attending the UN Climate talks in Cancun.
“Why do you need a trustee? Why did they (Norway) ask the World Bank to do it? Why doesn’t Norway simply give the money to Guyana? Aha! So somebody wants something from the World Bank,” Steer argued.
“The problem is not getting the money from Oslo to Guyana. There must be something somebody wants out of the World Bank. We didn’t ask to be the trustee. Norway asked us to be the trustee and Guyana said yes, that would be great,” he added.
The government plans to use the first tranche of money from the deal with Norway to demarcate Amerindian lands and fit every Amerindian home with solar panels over the next two years, but has been agitating at the sloth in the release of the funds.
“Let us send a clear message to the international community that they must get out of the way and allow us to move forward with our development,” Jagdeo told Amerindian leaders to tell officials of financial institutions like the World Bank.
Dr George Norton, an Amerindian Parliamentarian with the main opposition party, which has rapped the government on its corruption record, did not agree that the World Bank was hampering the flow of funds.
“The World Bank and other international financial agencies are trying to make certain that things are done the proper way, and if it means slowing down a process, then so be it,” said Norton just after Jagdeo spoke at the meeting of Amerindian leaders.
Amerindian leaders have insisted that the government’s proposals to save the forest do not address its international obligations to indigenous groups.
The government is seeking international partnerships and incentives to protect 15 million hectares (37 million acres) of forest.
Under the ongoing cooperation on climate change, Norway will pay for Guyana’s performance on limiting greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and for progress made against governance-related indicators.
Guyana will invest the payments it receives, and any income earned on them, in the Low Carbon Development Strategy.
The partnership between Guyana and Norway was set up on November 9, 2009, when they pledged to “work together to provide the world with a working example of how partnerships between developed and developing countries can save the world’s tropical forests.”
The partnership is based on the concept of “payment for ecosystem services” and aims to contribute to the creation of a global regime to assign economic value to standing forests.