WWF responds to Peru scandal

Following queries from FSC-Watch, WWF International has asked us to ‘correct’ the article weposted a few days ago concerning the scandalous certification of Forestal Venao, Peru. In fact, WWF’s helpful clarification of its role does not require us to ‘correct’ the article, but we are anyway happy to include the WWF response below in full.

As readers will see, WWF’s response not only confirms what we published earlier, but also corroborates from another source that SmartWood was well aware of serious concerns about Venao before they issued their certificate – but proceded to issue it nevertheless.

We believe it would be helpful if WWF would now make publicly available copies of the letters it has sent to SmartWood, USAID, UCIF and the President of Peru, Alain Garcia. Clearly, if SmartWood has ignored even WWF’s advice, then this is a matter of the utmost seriousness for the FSC. We also invite WWF to inform the readers of FSC-Watch as to whether they have instituted a formal complaint to FSC against the certification of Venao.

Message from Fred Prins, WWF-Peru:

We are and have been very much concerned about the situation re Forestal Vanao and the Unión de Comunidades Indígenas Fronterizas del Perú (UCIF), which we also expressed to Smartwood at the time of their evaluation. We have been also directly attacked by Forestal Vanao, through UCIF, for voicing these concerns. The facts are:

  • WWF has not provided assistance to Forestal Vanao for the certification in regency of its operations in the communities in Sawawo and Nueva Shahuaya. Technical assistance was provided by the USAID financed Alernative Rural Development programme, and contracted to Chemonycs. CEDEFOR was not involved.
  • WWF carried out a “pre-scoping” mission to Forestal Vanao and the communities represented by UCIF in Oct 2005. In our final report we made a number of observations indicating our concerns of the operations conducted by Vanao, from which we concluded it would not be in the interests of WWF to support or provide technical assistance to these operations through the CEDEFOR project. The WWF team was lead by Steve Gretzinger.
  • WWF expressed its concerns to SMARTWOOD in an official letter during its evaluation process of Vanao’s Operations, as well as had meetings with SMARTWOOD representatives after certification was awarded, again voicing our concerns.
  • WWF also discussed these concerns with USAID.
  • The Unión de Comunidades Indígenas Fronterizas is an indigenous federation set up by Forestal Vanao, and composed of Ashaninka communities composed of indigenous immigrants brought in from Selva Central, thus not autochtonous to the area. UCIF is not a member of AIDESEP and not recognised by AIDESEP, the national indigenous federation representing indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon.
  • UCIF has publicly denounced WWF for voicing its concerns about the operations of Forestal Vanao, to which we have replied.
  • WWF works with and supports Aconadysch, the local indigenous federation representing 6 indigenous ethnic peoples autochtonous to the area. Aconadysch is a member of ORAU, the regional indigenous federation and a member of AIDESEP. Specifically we have supported Aconadysch in strengthening its capacity as well as on proposals for land titling, management and natural resource plans. This support is provided through the Moore financed Amazon Headwaters initiative, and not through CEDEFOR.
  • WWF has consistently made public its concerns about illegal logging and its support for sustainable forest management and certification. Its last public statement, an open letter to President Garcia, signed in conjunction with other Civil Society Organisations, including AIDESEP.
  • WWF Peru has a public policy statement (principles) concerning its alliance with indigenous peoples, jointly developed with AIDESEP.

It is important that we make clear to those concerned that WWF does not support Forestal Vanao’s operations, nor are in agreement with the Certification awarded by SMARTWOOD, that we have made these concerns public, and that we request FSC to investigate this certification, which puts in danger the reputation and integrity of FSC certification.

Note: FSC-Watch challenged WWF’s claim above that “WWF has not provided assistance to Forestal Vanao for the certification in regency of its operations in the communities in Sawawo and Nueva Shahuaya”. As noted in our original posting, this appears to be contradicted by what is written in various WWF reports to USAID, which FSC-Watch has in its possession, about WWF’s relationship with Venao. One of these, dated October 2005, stated that “WWF is working with the Peruvian company, Forestal Venao and five indigenous communities to conduct baseline assessments and technical assistance”.

On this point, we have received further clarification from Fred Prins, as follows:

“I can reiterate that WWF did carry out a pre-scoping mission to determine if we should work with Vanao. Based on that and discussions with Vanao we decide not to engage. USAID did pursue the engagement.

We did not provide technical assistance. We have expressed our concerns to Smartwood, and we continue to share concerns about the certification. We do believe that FSC should investigate the case and would welcome their attention to this case.”

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