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Statement regarding Tvind’s Rain forest Project in Malaysia

Arne Wangel, 22-10-2001

Upon request from Mr. Michael Norling, member of the Tvind’s Teacher Group, I have scrutinized the forwarded materials re. Tvind’s Rain Forest Project in Malaysia.

I have since 1982 followed the economic, political and social development in Malaysia in connection with a series of research tasks on industrialization and working conditions, which I have carried out through a longer stay in the field. I am employed as a lecturer at the Institute for Production and Management, Denmark’s Technical Institute. In my professional role as adviser for DANCED I have during the recent years solved a series of tasks with regard to preparations and evaluations of projects in connection with projects in Malaysia. As my expertise does not lie within forestry, this statement concerns the social conditions around the rain forest project and which became decisive for its course of development. This statement can thus be considered a supplement to Morten Knudsen’s evaluation of the Project.

The materials I have received contains the project application and correspondence between the project executing organization and the Foundation in connection with the course of developments and conclusion of the project.

From the material it becomes evident that the project was halted when it became clear that the license for felling the timber – and which was the precondition for completing the project – was not achievable. The materials also make it clear that the grant remainders were repaid to the Foundation.

I am in agreement with the analysis of the utilization of the rain forests in Sabah, which is given as the precondition for the sustainability of the project. It is correct that the distribution of licenses is based on political preconditions and that the present regulations have been disregarded without reasonable sanctions. All these facts correlate with statements by social science researchers in Malaysia. Timber Felling licenses account for a vital asset in the system of patron-client relations or “money politics” (which is the term used in Malaysia)

Consequently, players who are not able to offer counter payments in the form of political or other backup by the dominating elite will be in a weak position or be totally excluded from getting any licenses.

To prove the need for a sustainable forest project is parallel to DANCED’s prioritizing in its Malaysia land programme of “multi-use management of forest resources”, where utilization of timber takes place itaking into consideration the forest’s influence on e.g. land scape erosion, protection and storage of fresh water resources, regulation of rivers and of micro-organisms, protection of the biodiversity and establishment of possibilities for eco-tourism.

At one point in the material the project is claimed to be “courageous”.  One could ask whether the Foundation should have evaluated the risk as being higher, at an earlier point in time. For example, a project planning based on Logical Framework Analysis has raised the question whether the obtaining of a license makes up a “killer assumption”, meaning a pre-condition which cannot be expected to be achieved, but which is vital for the achievement of the project goal. Despite the considerable investment, the main argument for the Foundation has been the substantiated need for change towards sustainable forestry.