Peter Bosshard, International rivers
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On November 8/9, China's and Africa's governments will meet for the 4th summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt. A report published by International Rivers finds that China and Africa have been successful in boosting their financial and economic cooperation, but have failed to deal seriously with the environmental challenges that have resulted from their growing cooperation.
The report, China, Africa and the Environment, concludes that the Chinese government has fulfilled the generous promises of increased cooperation which it made at the last China-African summit in Beijing in 2006. China has, for example, almost doubled its assistance to Africa since 2006, has freed 478 African products from all import tariffs, and has greatly increased its training and exchange programs for African professionals. The Chinese approach contrasts with the track record of Western governments, which have often reneged on their promises of increased support for Africa in recent years. Many Chinese investment projects go forward in environmentally sensitive sectors and regions however, and don't always follow international environmental standards.
Peter Bosshard, the Policy Director of International Rivers, commented: "The good news is that China has lived up to its promise to strengthen cooperation with Africa, and has allowed Africa to reduce its dependence on Western powers. The bad news is that some Chinese projects have disregarded the rights of local communities and the environment, and have created tensions over China's role in Africa. The China-Africa summit provides an opportunity to integrate environmental concerns into the mainstream of Chinese-African relations." The report mentions the Merowe Dam in Sudan and the proposed Gibe 4 Dam in Ethiopia as examples of projects which damage the environment and violate the rights of local communities.
The report by International Rivers also notes that the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation has opened the doors to the business sector, but has so far excluded civil society organizations from its meetings. It proposes that non-governmental organizations be invited to participate in the follow-up process to the FOCAC summit, as a way to better integrate environmental concerns into the financial and economic cooperation.