An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

'Non-existent' indigenous people challenge WWF's certified 'model' forest project, Komi, RussiaTags: Russia, WWF, Accreditation controls, Rainforest Alliance SmartWood

One of the several issues raised in our earlier posting on the FSC in Russia was the case of the 'Komi Model Forest Project', which is taking place in the Komi Republic, north-western Russia. The reports we have received below indicate that this project, which is used as a 'model' for certified forestry operations in European Russia, may be a model of what not to do, rather than one of good practice. It once again raises questions about the competence of SmartWood as an FSC-accredited certifier, and about WWF's relationships with forestry companies.

According to WWF, the Komi forest is "huge, the largest area of primeval forest in Europe, covering around 33,000 square kilometres...It became Russia's first World Heritage Site in 1995, saving it from massive felling for timber." In 2002, WWF's existing work in Komi's Priluzje district with the state forest management unit, Priluzje Leskhoz, was transformed into the 'Komi Model Forest Project'. The purpose of the project (also sometimes known as the 'Priluzje Model Forest') is to develop a 'sustainable forest management model' in the Priluzje Leskhoz, which covers nearly 800,000 hectares. The project is run by 'Silver Taiga', a not-for profit foundation supported by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC), and which brings together WWF, the regional authorities, and Mondi, a South Africa-based pulp and paper company.

The first FSC inspection of Priluzje Leskhoz was carried out by SmartWood in September-October 1999, though the certificate was not awarded until February 2003. The certification process was paid for by John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. In the light of the recent reports from Komi, some of the contents of SmartWood's Public Summary report now seem 'odd'. Notably, SmartWood concluded that FSC Principle 3, 'Indigenous Peoples' Rights were "Considered not applicable for this assessment...There are no indigenous people in the territory of Leskhoz and all groups can protect their rights in the court". The report goes on to note that "The local FSC working group representatives said that this principle is probably not applicable in Priluzje Leskhos. Local Komi people, who are the only possible "indigenous" group within the Leskhoz area have equal rights to resource use compared to other groups." (emphasis added).

This raises a number of major questions. SmartWood's report suggests they decided that there were no indigenous people in region largely on the basis of the views of one local FSC working group representative, rather than on a proper rigorous assessment and consultation. It seems clear that, had there been proper consultation, FSC Principle 3 should have been invoked. It also raises questions as to how the problems raised by local indigenous people were not identified by SmartWood during their four annual surveillance visits between 2003 and 2006. This would constitute a major failure by SmartWood against the FSC's requirements, which requires thorough investigation by the FSC Secretariat.

As one of the main partners in the Komi Model Forest Project, questions must be asked as to how WWF were seemingly 'unaware' of the existence of indigenous people in the area under certification, or about the concerns which these people are now raising. There will also no doubt be questions asked about the nature of WWF's relationship with Mondi. As a company whose core business is in industrial plantations of eucalyptus, Mondi might not seem like the obvious business partner for a project in the 'primeval' natural forests of northern Russia. However, there has been a close relationship between WWF and Mondi for many years. Mondi has 'donated' the equivalent of nearly $1 million to WWF-South Africa's wetland projects, and the company has reported "the FSC certification of 1.16 million hectares of leased forests in Russia in March 2006, an achievement that earned MONDI BUSINESS PAPER a WWF Panda Award". In fact, in 2002, Mondi had acquired Komi Republic's Syktyvkar paper mill for $2 billion, and was no doubt looking to secure sources of supply. Perhaps their cordial contacts with WWF were helpful.

(The Syktyvkar mill's processing of FSC-certified wood and other fibre continues to pollute local people, causing "respiratory diseases, cancers, allergies, asthma and skin irritations". As previously reported on FSC-Watch, the certification of Mondi's environmentally disastrous eucalyptus plantations has been bitterly opposed by South African environmentalists and the company has also been accused of 'environmental racism'.)

Finally, as with the case of Terneyles, the FSC Secretariat has so far failed to produce a report of an accreditation inspection visit to Priluzje Leskhoze in 2006.

FSC-Watch hereby invites SmartWood, WWF and the FSC to answer the above questions.

Note: the following is an unauthorised translation from an original in Russian

Indigenous people of Priluzje Leskhoz insist on revision of fulfilling of FSC requirements 22. May 2007

Komi Business News (BNK) reports that on 21 May in Obyachevo the decision was taken at a founding meeting of social organisations to create a community for indigenes people 'Luzvatas' (Priluzskie Komi). One of the aims of the community will be to participate in forest policy of Priluzje. The community will start by checking compliance of Priluzje leskhoz regarding forest legislation and the FSC's requirements.

Representatives of the community prepared a Charter and sent their declaration to the Komi Republic's Ministry of Natural Resources and Protection of the Environment, Ministry Culture, and the Regional Forest Certification Group. The information was also sent to Priluzsky Leskhoze, the 'Silver Taiga Foundation', JSC Mondi Business Paper and JSC Luzales. According to BNK, the community hopes to be able to participate in forest certification in Komi Republic. "The situation of Priluzje District's forests has been one of plunder of nature over recent years. A little more and indigenous people will lose the forest. We will not have firewood or wood to build houses. The forest around our villages has been felled by criminal organisations" - said a representative of indigenes people 'Luzvatas'. "We do not want to wait, we will protect our rights".

According to BNK, the Bukvoed Center for Public Rights will provide legal advice to the community. "After legal registration, we will actively take part in relationship concerning FSC's Principles" said a lawyer of Bukvoed, Mrs. Ekaterina Marutshak. "We are concerned that, whilst there are many violations of forest laws and FSC Principles in Priluzje District forests, the 'Silver Taiga Foundation' which realizes the 'Priluzje Model Forest Project', and the municipal organization 'Komi voytir', which has responsibility for protection of rights, have failed to act." To start with, 'Luzavatas' will document the problems of forest management in Priluzje Leskhoz. After that, the indigenous people will insist on total inspection of FSC requirements by Leskhoz.

Head of Priluzje district - "I will support activity of Luzavatas to set matters right in the forests" 23 May 2007 Today, the Head of Priluzje District, Mr. Vasiliy Kuznezov, was interviewed by BNK and was also told about indigenous people 'Luzavatas' and about their intentions to take part in the development of Priluzje's forest policy .

The Head of Administration of Priluzje has a mass of complaints regarding the 'Model Forest'. Mr Kuznezov explained: "I am aware about the creation of Luzavatas community and will strongly support their work in order to set to right matters in the district's forests. Moreover, the community is led by very authoritative forester Alexey Strekalov. Indeed, there are serious problems in Priluzje Leskhoz. We know about it and will work actively in order to eliminate defects. So, at the immediate time we will send complaint to Public Prosecutor of Republic Komi. We are concerned that the rights of indigenous people of the district have been badly broken".


Below, for your information a part of Report about the human rights of Komi Republic in 2006 (it was published by the regional newsletter “Molodej Severa” #22, 01.06. 2006):

"In 2006 two leshozes Republic Komi – Kaygorodsky leshoz and Sisolsky leshoz received FSC certificates for sustainable forest management but 3 Principle FSC did not fulfilled. The issuing of the certificates provoked an acclamation of Forest Agency of Republic Komi. However, Ecological group “Memorial” raised the scathing criticism the certification. The main negligence of the campaign is the fact that during the certification 3 FSC Principle was not assessed. The FSC Principle #3 protects rights of indigenous people. Why “rural komi” who live on their aboriginal lands does not consider as “indigenous people”? Nobody explained it".

Kaygorodsky leshoz and Sisolsky leshoz(total forest area is 1,195,156 hectares) were certified by Smart Wood 20/04/2006. This is harvesting area of JSC Mondi Business Paper. JSC Mondi Business Paper paied the certification projects.

Alexander Yakovlev
FSC auditor.

The former FSC auditor Yakovlev again try to falsify the facts.

There is Komi FSC working group, which already developed regional FSC standart. Komi FSC working group is registered by FSC National initiative in Russia, and their standart is harmonised with FSC National framework standart, which is in final stage of accreditation in FSC. Principle 3 was discussed among stakeholders in Komi, and the list of indigenous people was approved. The opinion of Memorial was discussed by stakeholders and was not accepted because it widened too much the concept of indigenous people.
If the new organisations of local or indigenous people are appearing they are welcome to join FSC Regional working group and convince stakeholders to include them to the list of indigenous people.

To 'former' FSC Russia:

03 June 2007 seven large NGOs of Republic Komi (Russia) established Coalition. In additional, next five regional NGOs declared about an joining. One of the trends of Coalition is Ecological and Community protection from large corporations. Forest industrial company “Mondy Business Paper” is largest corporation in the region. In particular, WWF(Model forest), Silver taiga and Komi FSC working group did not involve into the coalition.

Please see more detaled:http://www.bnkomi.ru/content/view/308/2/

To Russian FSC

Dear Russian FSC
Novgorod Regional Group of Certification sent Review for the FSC National framework standard "which is in final stage of accreditation in FSC" to Secretariat FSC(Bonn)in January 2007. The review was published in last issue of journal "FC". I doubt it will be accreditated.

Elena Yakovleva,
NRG, Co-ordinator.

Swindle of FSC certificated company «Mondi» in Russia.

Key stakeholders of Republic Komi (Russia) accuse timber industry company "Mondi" not only of discrimination local forest and processing companies, but also in direct swindle. According to speech of Vladimir Bondarenko, General Director of Forest Industrial Union of Republic Komi, fast development of company "Mondi" which have become practically as act a monopolist in the forest industry of Komi, creates problems for other participants who are carrying out the activity in this field and the same opinion have the majority of representatives of forest business.

Conflicts of timber industrial company «Mondi» with others forest industrial companies of Republic Komi (Russia) and representing Forest Industrial Union arise almost annually (http://fsc-russia.com/index.php?id=179 ). The majority of projects of the company as monopolist, is connected, anyhow with discrimination or ruin of other timber industry companies in region. Default of contract obligations from "Mondi" in relation to another companies have led to considerable problems in forest sector of the region. As says General Director of Open Company "SeverTransRazvitie" Sergey Makarov: «Such lawlessness as on "Mondi", anywhere is not present. This presents «fraud», only they have run into debt to my company some tens millions rubles for those works which we have executed, since 2004. Such as we, the are uncountable companies in widespread practice of "Mondi"! We can not use some assize, because “Mondi” is transnational corporation with strong universal influence.

Company "Mondi" has been certificated as the company carrying out FSC Principles and Criteria, (Certificate of Smart Wood: SW FM/COC 004071 from 13/5/2009) which provide that «Most the sharp disputes infringing on interests of many parties, as a rule, are the basis for refusal in certification

IA FSC Russia

According to WWF, the Komi forest is "huge, the largest area of primeval forest in Europe, covering around 33,000 square kilometres...It became Russia's first World Heritage Site in 1995, saving it from massive felling for timber." In 2002, WWF's existing work in Komi's Priluzje district with the state forest management unit, Priluzje Leskhoz, was transformed into the 'Komi Model Forest Project'. The purpose of the project (also sometimes known as the 'Priluzje Model Forest') is to develop a 'sustainable forest management model' in the Priluzje Leskhoz, which covers nearly 800,000 hectares...

According to Russian legislation, leshoz can not trasformed in anything. Leshozes and forest management of the State organizations can change only by Russian Government. WWF lies, in order to receive money from donors.

Features of Russian Forestry: http://www.fsc-russia.com/eng/world-forests#features


typical WWF, is WWF indead a NGO and NPO??? i cannot believe.
Mondi, one of the main criminal destroyer of Promary froest in hte world (main Funder of FSC) get now from WWF the gloriole of "1. Place in Paper Company Environmental Index" (see: http://www.druckspiegel.de/news/show/branchen-news/32149/WWF_kuert_Mondi_zur_Nummer_1)
with which eyes WWF are looking in the world, - cannot be from ecological sight..... just unbelievable. No word!

Maybe "someone" must attac WWF if they can have any longer the NPO Status?, maybe they must get the status of "Worldwide Loobyist for destroyers of Forests"???
with this act, WWF lost the rest of reputation they have in my mind.

Certification of Forestal Venao, Peru: another FSC credibility disaster, courtesy of SmartWood and WWF | FSC-Watch

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