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What makes a coalition work? Testing the PWYP model

We’ve always said that our strength lies in our members. We’re guided by the belief, ‘that effectively coordinating the collective actions, skills and interests of a diverse coalition of civil society organisations is the most effective way to influence key stakeholders and to drive policy and practice change in the extractive industries and the governmental sector’.

In short – being a coalition enables us to be more than the sum of our parts.

We’ve put that statement to the test, commissioning the UK-based Overseas Development Institute to conduct a study of our coalition model. As well as looking at the coalition model itself, ODI examined what made a national coalition effective in order to tease out some best practices. Is there an ideal size for a coalition, an ideal type of structure? Under what conditions have PWYP national coalitions been most effective? How far do national coalitions identify with the goals of the global PWYP campaign?

ODI reviewed ten coalitions: six reviews were carried out through telephone interviews while the remaining four included a field trip to the country. A survey was also carried out – via a questionnaire distributed at the Amsterdam anniversary and a session with an instant vote system.

You can explore their findings by reading the summary report.  Alternatively, we’ve pulled various lessons learned from the report:

These are only a few of the findings from the report, we really encourage you to read it in full on our site.

Transparency reforms all round for Senegal

In early August, Senegal submitted its application to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. The EITI board will decide in October whether Senegal has been accepted as an EITI candidate country.

This comes at a crucial time for Senegal; with a growing mining sector, the opportunity is ripe to instil practices so that all of Senegal’s citizens can benefit from their natural resources.

According to the industry, Senegal is Africa’s most popular destination for gold mining. Its mining sector contributes around 20% to the GDP and 20% of exports. Yet these resources are not yet benefiting the population as a whole, with almost half of Senegalese citizens living below the poverty line.

The Senegal government has been putting in place measures to change this, while civil society has been campaigning for increased transparency in the sector. The information EITI reports will make available will enable civil society and citizens to find out just how much the government gets for its natural resources and stimulate a debate about the management of the extractive sector.

Crucially, the Senegalese President Macky Sall announced that Senegal would publish all its mining contracts. The publication of contracts facilitates a better monitoring of projects and whether companies are adhering to their terms, as well as enabling civil society and citizens to ensure their country is getting a fairer deal for its resources.

Senegal is also in the process of revising its mining code, through which it hopes to capture more value from its extractive sector. 

With all these reforms in place, it is up to civil society, parliamentarians and the media to ensure that transparency is translated into accountability.

The image is by Ángel Hernansáez from flickr 

To extract or not to extract ? A town in Colombia says no to mining

Last July, a town in Colombia said no to mining. Piedras, in the region of Tolima, held a referendum over whether gold mining should be allowed in its locality. The answer was an overwhelming ‘no’, with 99% of voters deciding against.

The mine in question was La Colosa, an open mining project operated by Anglo-Gold Ashanti situated some 70km from Piedras. Exploration activities have been taking place at the project site since 2006 but the mine itself is still in pre-feasibility stage. It has the potential to become Colombia’s largest gold project, and is currently the world’s seventh largest undeveloped gold project.

However, there has been resistance to the mine ever since the arrival of AGA in Colombia. Colombian environmental authorities put a halt to the company’s activities no less than three times, while AGA unsuccessfully tried to sue the Mayor of Piedras over a roadblock local residents had set up blocking the company’s activities.

The recent referendum, initiated by the same mayor Arquímedes Ávila, represents the latest in this ongoing battle. One of the reasons for the strong opposition to the mine is that there is only one source of water in the area, and locals fear – not unreasonably – that gold mining risks polluting the water body. As Piedras is a rice-farming town, this risk is particularly dangerous. 

The people, then, have had their say. But will they be listened to?

Technically, the results of the referendum are binding, as more than a third of eligible voters participated in the referendum. However, according to a decree past last May, only the national government can decide the fate of mining projects. Anglo-Gold Ashanti, naturally, are contesting the results. Jorge Robledo, Senator, describing this as a ‘David and Goliath’ battle, stated it was unlikely the government would want to ignore the wish of the citizens.

The citizens of Piedras are not without their supporters – the Director of Cortolima (the environmental authority of the region), Jorge Enrique Cardoso, argued that the people’s decision should be accepted. OCMAL (Observatory of Mining Conflicts in Latin America) called on the authorities, the public and the international community to accept the referendum’s outcome as legitimate.

The actions of one mayor in a small farming town have elicited a nation-wide debate about mining and the right to decide. Who should get to decide whether a mining project goes ahead? The citizens living closest to the project? The local, regional, or national authorities?

A crossroads has been reached and no-one seems quite sure which path will be taken. What is sure, however, is that citizens in Piedras won’t relinquish their right to decide any time soon.

The image is by Tanehaus from flickr

Uganda – ensuring women also benefit from oil

In 2006, Uganda discovered oil. Since then, the question on everybody’s lips has been whether this discovery will prove a blessing or a curse. Will all of Ugandan’s citizens benefit from the country’s natural riches? How can Uganda prepare itself to ensure a transparent and responsible management of its natural resources?

When we talk about ‘citizens’ it is important to remember that we are not only talking about men but women too, who in many cases have a very different experience to men when it comes to the extractive sector. The exploitation of natural resources has an important gender dimension to it, one which it is necessary to address if we want resources to truly benefit all citizens.

PWYP member in Uganda Global Rights Alert has been working on gender issues within the oil sector for some time and runs a programme that offers advocacy training to women living in extractive communities.

Global Rights Alert has published a report, covering the Hoima and Buliisa districts, which assesses the impact the discovery of oil has had on women’s lives, their participation in the oil sector and how that participation could be increased.

For their report, GRA conducted a survey of 151 women living in these districts. They found that women remain on the outside of several aspects of natural resource management, for instance only a third were able to take part in the community consultations about compensation. Other obstacles prevent them from making the most of the economic opportunity an extractive project throws up – for instance no transport is provided to the site from local communities. As women have to stay with their families and cannot stay in camps like the men, the lack of transport inhibits their ability to take up jobs offered around the site. Their economic opportunities remain peripheral to the project, although the women did state that these opportunities had increased with the arrival of the industry.

As well as exploring how women experience the effect of the arrival of the oil industry oil extraction, the report lays out some recommendations for how to improve women’s participation in – and therefore ability to benefit from – the oil sector.

A lot of it boils down to access – to training, credit and information. Suggested training courses ranged from business skills to finance literacy so that women can best capitalise on economic opportunities created by extraction. Linked to this is the proposal that women be given access to capital via microcredit facilities, as well as access to the market itself. Finally, increased transparency and accountability will empower women with the information they need to be able to influence decisions.

To read the report in full, visit our site. To stay up to date with issues relating to transparency, gender and the extractive industries please visit our blog extracting equality.

The image is by Conservation Concepts from flickr