MAC: Mines and Communities

Calling for a reality check on gender and extractives

Published by MAC on 2016-01-23
Source: Goxi (2016-01-20)

The report can be downloaded here.

Calling for a reality check on gender and extractives - Why the complex realities of conflict-affected areas require more nuance

Jana Naujoks


20 January 2016

Conflicts and multinationals both have specific impacts on various kinds of people. Men, women, boys and girls are all affected in different ways – each with their own distinct vulnerabilities, needs and capacities.

A new paper by International Alert and the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), entitled Reality check, suggests various lines of inquiry for civil society researchers to assess the activities of multinational corporations through a ‘gender lens’.

Women and men can be privileged in some ways and disadvantaged in others, depending on their ethnicity, religion, gender, class, sexual orientation, marital status, location (urban or rural) and ability. This privilege defines which voices are heard and which are silenced; who exercises power and who does not.

In Reality check, we provide numerous research questions that might be useful to incorporate in future research on the impacts of multinational corporations, including fact-finding missions, in order to better analyse the different perspectives of people and reach a nuanced understanding of complex local realities.

The development agendas of governments and international institutions alike promote private sector engagement in conflict-affected areas. Economic development is considered an essential element for achieving human wellbeing, and businesses can stimulate employment, infrastructure, technology, education, knowledge transfer and, ultimately, stability and peace. Yet it is important for civil society organisations researching and monitoring the impact of multinational companies in conflict-affected areas to also consider the gender dimensions of this engagement.

Women, who are already at a disadvantage in terms of legal access to land or decision-making opportunities, tend to be relatively more adversely affected by the negative consequences of increased care duties, domestic chores and reduced yields from traditional, subsistence livelihoods. In some locations, they also face cultural barriers to their participation in public consultations and community decision-making forums.

Men, on the other hand, are more likely to benefit in terms of employment opportunities and compensation payments, as the registered land owners, traditional decision-makers and heads of households. However, they do face their own vulnerabilities related to the expectations of them as providers and protectors.

Despite increasing attention on the issue, the overlap between gender, conflict and the activities of multinationals requires more consistent attention – particularly in ensuring that increased insights into the importance of these links translate into practical and concrete changes on the ground.

Posing gender-related questions during fact-finding missions, for example, is very important. This includes practical questions, such as who gets a seat at the table during public consultations, but also more analytical questions, such as how potential tensions or discontent over multinational companies’ operations exacerbate pre-existing conflict dynamics, ethnic divisions and gender inequalities. This kind of ‘gender lens’ helps to show the power dynamics at play in societies and therefore achieve a more detailed understanding of the impact that multinationals have in conflict-affected areas.

To read our findings and recommendations in full, download Reality check here.

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