World Bank’s Palm Oil Plan Kills Jobs and Threatens Global Food Security

Framework Reveals Cozy Alliance between World Bank and WWF

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, World Growth submitted formal comments on a revision by the World Bank of its proposed Framework for Engagement in the Palm Oil Sector.  The process has been wrought with delay and criticized by stakeholders, particularly those representing Africa and emerging economies, for substituting proven poverty-alleviating and growth-enhancing strategies with plans developed by Green NGOs to limit production and trade of palm oil.

World Growth concludes that the revision of the strategy only pays lip service to developing country concerns: its basic strategy remains unaltered, switching the role of the International Finance Corporation from private sector financier to global environmental regulator.  It also reveals the World Bank as an active collaborator with special interest, anti-development group, WWF, to seize control of the market for palm oil, to restrict consumer access and force producers to limit production, all to impose on developing countries how WWF thinks they should develop.

World Growth released the following statement by its Chairman, Ambassador Alan Oxley:

“In a misguided effort that revealed how much the Bank’s cozy relationship with WWF has corrupted its core mission to alleviate poverty, the effort to improve the revision of the Bank’s rules for engagement with the palm oil industry disregarded the deep concerns expressed by governments and civil society in Africa and Asia. The proposed policy will still smother job growth, restrict long-term economic growth and upward mobility of millions and hamper efforts to strengthen global food security. The World Bank is no longer champion of the poor; rather a ‘global environmental czar-in-chief’.”
“What else explains how the Bank could get things so wrong? The proposed policy wrongly assumes that palm oil is not sustainable, promotes a carbon reduction strategy which is now invalid, will reduce growth, is out of step with global consensus, and dictates how developing countries manage their natural resources.”
“What’s more, the Bank’s formal alliance with WWF has led it to become a willing participant in WWF’s agenda to control and restructure markets, and in the process deny consumers access to an important food staple.  Thus, the Bank is rejecting a fundamental principle adopted at its founding to support development by fostering open markets.”
“WWF has spelt out its strategy: capture supply chains by pressuring dominant major operators in downstream links to demand upstream suppliers provide only products which meet WWF standards.  This is a far cry from President Zoellick’s strong personal support both formerly as United States Trade Representative and as Bank president, for the notion that free and open markets are essential for economic growth, alleviation of poverty and ensuring food security.” 
What the World Bank Should Do: 

  • Cease supporting and disavow strategies to distort voluntary certification systems to manage commerce and undermine the operation of markets;
  • Recognize that most palm oil is consumed as an important food staple in low income economies thus generating growth and enhancing food security;
  • Recognize palm oil is already highly sustainable;
  • Commit to recognize any genuine certification system which producers, consumers and Governments consider satisfactory, rather than advance the anti-growth agenda of environmental NGOs;
  • Not set standards for certification, as it has in the case of forestry, which advance policies which are not endorsed in relevant, official, multilateral institutions, disregard national development strategies and national conservation strategies and which discriminate against high quality systems of certification;
  • Attune its strategy on land use for palm oil to the terms for action on forestry and related land use as now agreed among UNFCCC parties following the Cancun UNFCCC meeting in December, 2010;
  • Avoid becoming a de facto regulator of sustainability of palm oil;
  • Avoid mandating certification of small holders as a condition for financing palm oil and ensure that principle is not included World Bank safeguards;
  • Not make reform of land management a prior requirement for Bank funding of palm oil projects which will advance economic development and reduce poverty and not propose that a as a prior condition for funding by private sector financial bodies;
  • Focus on the funding of programs that improve economic development and advance the practice of sustainable forest and plantation management and reduce reference, particularly in REDD programs, to strategies to base economic growth on creating carbon credits for markets which are infeasible.

Click here to read the rest of the submission, World Bank’s Revised Palm Oil Strategy Undermines Economic Development & Restricts Global Markets.

To speak with World Growth’s experts or find out more about its work, please email or call +1-866-467-7200.

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. At World Growth, we embrace the age of globalization and the power of free trade to eradicate poverty and create jobs and opportunities. World Growth supports the production of palm oil and the use of forestry as a means to promote economic growth, reduce poverty and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. World Growth believes a robust cultivation of palm oil and forestry provides an effective means of environmental stewardship that can serve as the catalyst for increasing social and economic development.  For more information on World Growth, visit

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