[GRRN] Fwd: Emergency Action: World Bank Funding in Russia

From: Gary Liss (gary@garyliss.com)
Date: Fri Sep 08 2000 - 15:58:01 EDT

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    >From: Global Response <globresponse@igc.org>
    >Dear Members of Global Response's Quick Response Network:
    >Russian environmental organizations and the Pacific Environment and
    >Resource Center (PERC) asked us to circulate this Emergency Action. Please
    >send a quick fax to World Bank president James Wolfensohn and US Secretary
    >of the Treasury Larry Summers to pressure the Russian government to
    >reinstate environmental agencies that were abolished in May. A model
    >letter is given below.
    >On May 17, 2000, newly-elected Russian President Vladimir Putin abolished
    >the Committee on Environmental Protection, Russia's primary independent
    >environmental enforcement agency, and the 200-year old Russian Forest
    >Service. The remains of both were folded into the Ministry of Natural
    >Resources, an agency responsible for the extraction, not the protection, of
    >Russia's natural resources. This is roughly the equivalent of abolishing
    >the U.S. EPA, and putting its responsibilities under the Department of
    >Commerce or Bureau of Mining. This act is illegal, and is the subject of a
    >lawsuit that has been filed by the esteemed Russian environmental law firm
    >Ecojuris. Despite this, the World Bank Group is proposing to go forward
    >with several potentially harmful loans and guarantees to Russia in the
    >forestry, gold, and coal mining sectors in the coming weeks. This topic
    >will be discussed at the upcoming World Bank board of directors meeting on
    >September 12.
    >The effect of the World Bank approving these projects at a time when these
    >environmental protection agencies have been abolished will be the
    >encouragement of environmental destruction and the undermining of the rule
    >of law in Russia. It's critical to put pressure on the World Bank to demand
    >that the projects do not go forward until an independent Committee on
    >Environmental Protection and Forest Service are reinstated.
    >We strongly urge you to write to the President of the World Bank, James
    >Wolfensohn, and to Lawrence Summers, Secretary of the Treasury, to urge
    >them not to approve projects or disburse any existing loans that would have
    >an impact on Russia's environment until these critical agencies are
    >Here is some suggested wording you can use, which can be sent to
    >feedback@worldbank.org and Larry.Summers@do.treas.gov.
    >Dear President Wolfensohn/Secretary Summers,
    >Given the sudden and illegal abolishment of Russia's State Committee on
    >Environmental Protection and the absence of any legally acceptable
    >replacement I do not believe World Bank-funded projects that impact the
    >environment in Russia can proceed in an environmentally, financially or
    >legally sound way. I urge you to issue an immediate moratorium on all World
    >Bank Group approvals for new projects in Russia, and to suspend all current
    >projects, until a fully functioning and legal system for environmental
    >protection is fully restored.
    >You can also send via snail mail to:
    >President James Wolfensohn, The World Bank, 1818 H Street NW, Washington,
    >DC, 20433, USA.
    >Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers, Fax: 202/622-0073
    >For more information, go to www.pacificenvironment.org.
    >Additional Information:
    >. The Ministry of Environmental Protection was created under
    >President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. It was the result of a growing
    >awakening amongst Soviet citizens and government officials that the rapid
    >industrialization the country had undergone had created environmental and
    >public health problems unparalleled anywhere else in the world. The
    >explosion at Chernobyl was one of the major events leading up to this act.
    >. Soon after Boris Yeltsin was re-elected President in 1996, he
    >downgraded the agency from Ministerial to Committee status. This took away
    >a great deal of its regulatory power, and its budget has been cut
    >significantly since then.
    >. Until its abolishment on May 17, 2000, The Committee had the
    >authority to declare zapovedniks, or natural areas to be protected for
    >scientific research. It also had the authority to approve or reject
    >projects through a process called expertiza, which is similar to an
    >environmental impact assessment.
    >. The abolishment of The Committee has provoked outrage among Russian
    >citizens. According to one poll, 87% of Russians expressed anger at the
    >action, an extraordinary number considering Putin is otherwise a very
    >popular president. Leading cultural and spiritual figures, including Aleksy
    >II, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, have voiced opposition to the
    >. The abolishment violates several articles of the Constitution,
    >including the public's right to a healthy environment. This is the subject
    >of a lawsuit brought forth in Russian court by the Russian environmental
    >law firm Ecojuris.
    >The abolishment has already had a chilling effect. A regional head of the
    >Committee in Kamchatka recently abandoned his support for a United Nations
    >program protecting two key salmon watersheds that are also coveted by the
    >Ministry of Natural Resources for their gold and gas deposits. The reason,
    >local activists say, is that he is concerned about keeping his job under
    >the Ministry of Natural Resources.
    >Rory Cox, Communications Director
    >Pacific Environment and Resources Center
    >1440 Broadway, Suite 306
    >Oakland, CA 94612
    >Ph: 510/251-8800 x302
    >GLOBAL RESPONSE is an international letter-writing network of environmental
    >activists. In partnership with indigenous, environmentalist and peace and
    >justice organizations around the world, GLOBAL RESPONSE develops "Actions"
    >that describe specific, urgent threats to the environment; each "Action"
    >asks members to write personal letters to individuals in the corporations,
    >governments or international organizations that have the power and
    >responsibility to take corrective action. GR also issues "Young
    >Environmentalists' Actions" and "Eco-Club Actions" designed to educate and
    >motivate elementary and high school students to practice earth stewardship.
    >P.O. Box 7490 Phone: 303/444-0306
    >Boulder CO, USA 80306-7490 Fax: 303/449-9794
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    Gary Liss
    Fax: 916-652-0485

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