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Brussels, May 14, 2001
—An innovative Costa Rican environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) whose work IFC has helped finance was today named winner of Belgium’s prestigious 2000 King Baudouin Foundation International Development Prize.
The King Baudouin International Development Prize has been awarded every two years since 1980 to an individual or organization to recognize sustainable achievements in improving the lives of people in the developing world. Today it was given to Fundación Para el Desarrollo de la Cordillera Volcánica Central (FUNDECOR), a private, nonprofit Costa Rican organization that works to protect its country’s tropical forests. IFC Executive Vice President Peter Woicke had nominated FUNDECOR for the prize in December 1999. After an extensive screening process, the King Baudouin Foundation selected it for the honor earlier this year from a pool of 198 original applicants.
The award was announced at a press conference today attended by World Bank and IFC President James D. Wolfensohn, FUNDECOR President Harry Wohlstein and Executive Director Franz Tattenbach Capra, and KBF Prize Selection Committee Chairman Peter Piot and Managing Director Luc Tayart de Borms.
Following the press conference, His Majesty the King Albert of Belgium officially presented the Euro 150,000 award at a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Brussels. Kofi A. Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, was also scheduled to attend the ceremony.
“FUNDECOR has developed an excellent model that clearly demonstrates how conservation and economic development can co-exist in harmony,” said World Bank President Wolfensohn in advance of the Prize ceremony.
“We are proud to be associated with a cutting-edge NGO such as FUNDECOR and to have played a small part in helping them reach their goals,” said IFC Executive Vice President Peter Woicke. “Preservation of tropical forests is one of the planet’s most pressing and complex environmental issues, and can only be solved through the long-term commitment of dedicated groups in the public and private sectors who apply win-win solutions appealing to both economic and ecological interests. It is very gratifying for us to see FUNDECOR receive recognition from the King Baudoin Foundation for the unique private-sector based approach it has used in this regard in Costa Rica. Its work with private landowners has proved to be an excellent companion to the government’s own remarkable conservation efforts on public lands there.”
Founded in 1989, FUNDECOR’s primary mission is to support the sustainable use of natural resources in Costa Rica’s Central Volcanic Range. That area has experienced some of the world’s highest rates of deforestation, endangering local wildlife such as the green macaw and more than 300 other species of native birds as well as large mammals such as the jaguar and tapir.
One of FUNDECOR’s key responses has been to develop its Advance Wood Purchases Program, a commercial financing package available to local small landowners in the privately owned areas adjacent to national parks in the Central Volcanic Range. It provides market-based economic incentives so these people can launch new forest plantations in deforested areas they own and/or practice environmentally sound timber harvesting in their remaining uncut forests.
A pioneering, untested model when it began in 1996, the program was unable to attract private capital because of its perceived risk. Using funds from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), IFC enabled it to begin by extending FUNDECOR a US$500,000 long-term loan that was then rechanneled through local financial institutions at market rates to a total of 62 local landowners. Of these 31 have now planted new forests with native species for future timber harvests, and 31 more have begun practicing sustainable forestry in existing forests. FUNDECOR has received independent certification for these efforts from the Forest Stewardship Council, an independent organization based in Oaxaca, Mexico backed by major environmental organizations, timber companies, and others.
FUNDECOR’s unique market-based model has played a critical role in reversing the process of deforestation in the buffer zones of the Central Volcanic Range. During the period 1986-1992, this region experienced a net annual loss of 6% (6,000 HA) in its forest cover. As of 2000, satellite photography showed a small net gain in forest cover in the region. Conceived as a demonstration project from the start, the program has now established a solid track record and is being consider for broader application in Costa Rica and other countries.
The loan was provided through the IFC/GEF Small and Medium Enterprise Program, an initiative of the IFC Environmental Projects Unit managed by Louis C. Boorstin.
“In keeping with the goals of the program, FUNDECOR has demonstrated that is an NGO able to use public-sector funds from the GEF to accomplish environmental objectives through the private sector,” said Boorstin. “This three-way partnership demonstrates the value of working together across all sectors of society to achieve innovative environmental results.”
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