The International Tropical Timber Organisation banned the Swiss rainforest advocacy NGO, the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), from attending its annual conference, held in Kuala Lumpur on 16-20 November 2015, reports BMF.
BMF delegate Johanna Michel, who attended the conference on behalf of the Swiss organisation, was asked by the ITTO secretariat to leave the conference premises on 17 November. The decision to ban BMF from the conference was taken by the Malaysian chair, Freezailah Che Yeom, at the request of the Malaysian delegation.
The exclusion of BMF by ITTO follows critical questions raised by the Swiss organization over the loss of US$18m in speculative investments. None of the questions raised by BMF with the ITTO have been answered.
On 16 November, an ITTO working group had to admit that US$6m was lost in LM Managed Performance Fund, an Australian real estate fund by bankrupt investor Peter Drake. Another US$12m invested in Ardent 365, a Cayman Island trust fund, is also believed to be lost. The Bruno Manser called for ITTO to appoint an independent special investigator.
The Bruno Manser Fund protests strongly against its arbitrary exclusion from the conference and calls on donor countries to stop funding the ITTO due to the organisation’s serious governance flaws. “There is no sustainability without transparency,” BMF director Lukas Straumann said.
“We are particularly disappointed that Malaysia, as the host country of the conference, has abused the ITTO’s procedures to ban civil society from voicing its legitimate concerns.”
ITTO is an intergovernmental organisation based in Yokohama dedicated to “promoting the conservation and sustainable management, use and trade of tropical forest resources”. It was established in 1986 under the auspices of the United Nations amidst worldwide concern for tropical forests.