World Bank/WWF Alliance's Assessment of Certification Systems Open and Sound | WWF

World Bank/WWF Alliance's Assessment of Certification Systems Open and Sound

Posted on 14 October 2004
Harvesting certified timber, Switzerland.
© WWF / WWF-Switzerland/A. della Bella
The World Bank/WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation & Sustainable Use (Alliance) is going ahead with the field test of its methodology for the assessment of forest certification systems. This is despite the decision of the PEFC Council, announced in a press release last week, declining participation in the study. The Alliance remains confident that the current process of developing and testing the Questionnaire for Assessing the Comprehensiveness of Certification Schemes/Systems (QACC) has been highly consultative, and has resulted in the most comprehensive and transparent evaluation of its kind. 
"The World Bank and WWF have a requirement to reliably and transparently assess whether existing certification schemes are consistent with the principles of good forest management defined by the Alliance in 1999," said David Cassells, The World Bank's Alliance Co-Chair. These principles provide the benchmark for measuring progress toward the Alliance’s certification target of 200 million hectares under independent certification by 2005. These principles were subsequently adopted by the Bank in its Operational Policy on Forests, which stipulates that industrial-scale harvesting operations are only eligible for financing by the Bank if they are certified, or adhere to a time-bound action plan for achieving certification, under a system that meets the Bank’s standards for responsible forest management. 
The QACC was developed to provide criteria and indicators with which to evaluate whether existing schemes are in accordance with these principles. The current QACC consultation process was designed to ensure the questions are fair, unbiased and appropriate. Accordingly, in April 2004, the Alliance invited two broadly recognized schemes, FSC and PEFC, to participate in an initial field trial of the QACC in 12 European countries. It also set up an independent review panel representing a broad range of stakeholders. 
Throughout these discussions, both FSC and PEFC have reiterated their acceptance of the underlying Alliance principles on which the QACC is based. The Alliance therefore regrets PEFC's decision not to participate in the assessment study, despite the Alliance’s efforts to accommodate the concerns expressed by the PEFC Council. The Alliance has given a thorough response to PEFC and has agreed to revise a number of questions in light of these concerns. In other cases, the Alliance has provided justifications and clarification as to why it is important to retain some elements – for example, stakeholder participation, transparency and reporting, and provisions for small forest owners – as these are instrumental in assessing the Bank’s Operational Policy requirements. The revised QACC to be field tested soon will thus have benefited considerably from feedback by PEFC, as well as FSC and the independent review panel.
The Alliance has declined a request made by PEFC at a recent meeting to design a new questionnaire from scratch employing an open-ended process, and to refrain from field testing the existing QACC. "Although we welcome their participation in the field testing, and their commentary and evaluation of the findings, it would be inappropriate for certification schemes to design these questionnaires themselves," said Bruce Cabarle, WWF's Alliance Co-Chair. 
Duncan Pollard, WWF’s Head of European Forest Programme added, "While we are committed to being neutral and objective, this does not, however, mean that the Alliance gives a right of veto to any particular group or stakeholder on what should or should not be included in the instrument or the process used to test it."
In the interest of transparency and full disclosure, the Alliance's correspondence to PEFC is available on the Alliance’s web site, The version of the QACC to be field tested will also be available as soon as it has been revised to incorporate the feedback from PEFC, FSC and the review panel.

For more information:

Bruce Cabarle
WWF Global Forest Program
Tel: + 1 - 202-822 3450
David Cassells
The World Bank
Tel: +1 - 202- 473 1376
Beatrix Richards
WWF Forests Policy Officer
Tel: + 44 77 80 95 8226