In this article, human rights activist Golden Misabiko writes about responsible extractive industries acitivities in Africa.
RESPONSIBLE EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES ACTIVITIES IN AFRICA
“African Local Communities- Extractive Industries- Governments” Dialogue Approach
By Golden Misabiko
1. Background :
Many African countries are known to be extremely (potentially) rich with such natural resources as minerals, water, forests etc… It is in this region where most of the world’s reserves are found.
Indeed, there is copper, cobalt, uranium, gold, diamonds, coltan (Colombo-tantalite), germanium and many other rich natural resources that could be used, if well managed, to tackle misery and poverty in Africa in general and in Sub-Saharan Africa in particular.
It is in this part of the world (Africa), that the incidence of misery and poverty is the highest.
Indeed, there is a sad paradox that shows that it is in this part of the world where natural resources are the most immensely located that the poorest communities are found. This makes some observers to conclude that,” The African rich natural resources instead of being a blessing for the communities, is seen, rather, as a curse for them”. As they (natural riches) become, now, the cause of all the people’s miseries, conflicts and catastrophe (political, economic and, environmental, social-humanitarian).
In the new Approach (Extractive industries- Governments-Civil Society/Local Communities), it is dire and necessary to work and involve local communities in the extractive industries activities around areas of operations to advance capacity building on their social rights and responsibilities. The extractive industries (national and multinational) are to be encouraged and often reminded about commitment to comply with the norms and standards of social accountabilities.
Many local communities in Africa still ignore the vital rights that they have to benefit from the extractive industries activities. And some natural -resources companies, as well, do ignore their obligations and rights in the country of their operations.
2. Natural Resources and Extractive Industries Related Norms ( National and International )
In order to regulate natural resources exploitation and activities, some rules, laws and principles are set, formulated and published in order to be respected and observed by all those who are concerned: Local communities, extractive industries and governments; and Civil Society Leaders.
The national and international principles and regulation on natural resources standards aim at advancing/encouraging good governance and transparency in these activities by paying fair taxes /loyalties to the host-State; by being involved in social development programs and by respecting human rights and environment including World Heritage Properties in the areas of their activities.
Many related international norms intend to enhance social accountabilities/responsibilities of extractive industries (national and international) vis a vis local communities and environment.
Some regulation laws and norms are:
– EITI: The Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative;
– OECD: Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development;
– UN Voluntary Principles …etc
The Extractive industries Transparency Initiative approach started in 2003 and was finalized in 2007. These criteria are considered as the most concise statement of the initiative. EITI aims at raising awareness of how natural resources are being exploited; and at encouraging/advancing good governance in the way they have to be managed. They are mainly 12 principles and 6 criteria.
In these norms, some common principles of corporate governance are emphasized to advance:
- Rights and equitable treatment of shareholders;
- Interests of other stakeholders ( Whistle-blowers protection )
➢ The principles make reference to the rights of shareholders, whether established by law or through mutual agreement;
➢ A new principle that advocates for protection of whistle-blowers, including institutions through which their complaints or allegations can be addressed and provides for confidential access to the company;
➢ Social Responsibilities
C. UN Voluntary Principles on Principles on Security and Human Rights: Performance Indicators
Launched in 2000, the principles provide guidance to companies operating in zones of conflicts or fragile states so that they can ensure that security forces- public or private protecting the companies’ facilities and premises operate in a way that protects the company’s assets while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
3. Local Communities and Environmental Rights
Social responsibilities in extractive industries
When the extractive industries start implementing their activities, they, necessarily and likely, find the local communities, trees, animals and water flows in their natural environment. These natural assets and properties have to be protected and safeguarded.
The extractive activities in the area, if not well controlled or managed, they will even disturb seriously the life style and existence of the species and bio-diversities. Local communities will lose their small-scale farming land; and this will destroy their rhythm of living; bringing them thus more hunger, poverty and misery.
The local community and their livestock have the right to live. Should it be decided to remove them from the area, another appropriate location or site is to be found for their re-location with access to essentials (schools, medical center and other social infrastructures) with human dignity.
4. Social Dialogue
The extractive industries activities are the major cause of many conflicts among the stakeholders (local communities, extractive industries and governments). When the extractive industries bring their investments, they sign contracts; and they are given lands to explore and exploit natural resources. Often, the land that used to belong to the local communities to live and survive on will be taken away. Many will be deprived of their lands and will be displaced by force to remote areas with no access to basic and vital essentials.
Most extractive industries say they pay taxes and other obligations to the governments for social programs. The government will say that it is the companies’ responsibility to engage in the social and environment work.
In the “Social Dialogue” approach, it is necessary to help all the stakeholders to learn and know about their rights/obligations and their responsibilities.
The Approach intends:
– To support mining-affected communities in working for the realization of mining company social plans and to strengthen network with other civil society leaders to share experiences in Africa;
– To organize regular contact meetings with the community leaders to assist them in their dialogue process with companies and government representatives in the social developments efforts;
– To expand the interventions with specific companies that are affecting African communities, into the regional operations of these companies ( for example, companies operating in DRC, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia Tanzania, Swaziland etc… ) to highlight and raise social responsibilities and human rights issues in their natural resources exploitation activities.
– To work (in the regional networks ) in building the capacity of local communities affected by the extractive industries to hold these companies accountable for non compliance with human rights norms and standards and to enhance their advocacy initiatives in social development efforts
5. Lacal Communities Human Rights Awareness in Extractive Industries
It is always observed and reported that the human rights and fundamental freedoms of many local communities who had been living on lands before the extractive activities are seriously violated by these industries.
Their properties (land, livestock, dignity…) are ruined by the mining exploration, implementation and/or by exploitation operations.
Some are displaced from their traditional milieus leaving behind them, their farms, houses, schools, medical units; and even little infrastructure they had had. They are forced to go to restart new living at zero level where they do not belong.
When the government has signed the mining agreement with the multinationals companies (corporate) who come to extract the rich natural resources (minerals, timber, waters, hydro-energy …) local communities lose most of their rights. Official government agents (security agents, police, corporate- interest agents) work together to chase the local populations from what used to be their home/land. Most of time, they are sent where there is no clean water, no food, no school and no medical system. Here, they are depicted exactly like refugees in their own country. Due to this situation, the displaced are totally at high risk in all aspects.
And most of time, there is total lack of transparency in the agreements/contracts between governments and the extractive industries.
Indeed, there is a lot of similar extractive activities issues in all African regions; with the negative impact on:
➢ Local communities
- Displacement of local communities;
- Interruption of people’s vital farming activities;
- No schooling for children;
- No medical care system; and
- No place for worship or recreation
- Trees are totally destroyed on the mining sites. They are cut down , affecting thus, ecosystem and contribute to Climate Change;
- Air is polluted due to unregulated acids and other chemicals substances ;
- Streams and rivers are polluted; and fish and other aquatic living things are killed by acids
A lot of mining activities in Africa harm human life and environment. It is for this reason that it is believed that this new “local Communities – Governments- Extractive Industries” Dialogue Approach will alleviate or bring remedy to this complex sad reality sequence:
Natural Resources/Wealth – – -> Misery- – -> Poverty- – – > Hunger – – – > DEATH
6. Some concrete Actions to be taken
In the efforts to bring peace and to manage natural-resources related misunderstandings/conflicts, as it has been observed, it is essential and advised to work in the way to approach all the stakeholders involved in the operations reality. The stakeholders are local communities, state/governments and extractive industries.
The rights (and obligations) of each, as enshrined in the national or international instruments, are to be learned and taught in a strong and sustainable campaigns and programs.
This “awareness- campaign –concrete action” approach will lead to commitment to :
– Protect environment and the World Heritage in Africa;
– Clean drinking water;
– Clean air and water ( in streams, rivers and lakes );
– Create/build Medical centre/care;
– Establish essential social infrastructure;
– Plan to plant trees ( 1000, 10,000, 1000,000, 10,000,000,- or more ) to replace or improve those which havebeen affected by the extractive activities in the areas of operations.
Human Rights Defender
Natural Resources Expert
Civil Society Leader/Congo
MEA 2006 Nominee for Human Rights