A Congressional Perspective
John Edward Porter
The concept of the debt-for-nature swap is generally credited to Thomas Lovejoy, former president of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and presently assistant secretary for external affairs at the Smithsonian Institution.I have heard it said that "daring ideas are like chessmen; they may get beaten on the way to winning the game." In 1984, Tom Lovejoy had a daring idea.An idea born out of two crises—crushing Third World debt and environmental destruction.Today, five years and nine debtswaps later, it is clear that the idea has come of age. I only hope we can win the game.
Debt-for-nature swaps have taken place in Bolivia, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Zambia, Ecuador, and Madagascar. With murders of environmental leaders in the Amazon, surging numbers of environmental refugees, overburdened urban centers, and a forest the size of a football field being destroyed every second of every day, serious consideration has been given to such creative solutions.
While we collectively address the twin crises of debt and deforestation at the moment, we must also be involved in restructuring current development policies in order to preclude the need for crisis management plans in the future. Programs at the multilateral development banks, for example, should establish policies for long-term growth. Past strategies have relied on exports and programs that promote short-term economic gains, flooding world markets and placing an unhealthy emphasis on single-crop agriculture. The result has been rampant inflation, internal disruption, and shelves virtually devoid of all affordable subsistence goods for the average consumer.
Mechanisms to link long-term economic growth and environmental protection are embodied in the Tropical Forest Protection Act, H.R. 1704. The act would use World Bank loans to swap private debt for environmental protection.It also provides for environmental structural____________________