Statement of the Africa Initiative on Mining, Environment and Society (AIMES)Published by MAC on 2004-05-15
STATEMENT OF THE AFRICA INITIATIVE ON MINING, ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY (AIMES)
We, members of the Africa Initiative on Mining, Environment and Society (AIMES) from Angola, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia in collaboration with our northern partners from Canada and the United Kingdom meeting in Accra Ghana, from April 30 to May 2, 2004 to discuss the pressing challenges facing Africas extractive sector, in particular mining, oil, gas, and forestry, and concluded thus:
Participants observed that the extractive sector activity in its current setting is contradictory to the interest and concerns of local communities and the developmental priorities of African national economies. Although perceived as catalyst for economic growth and development, extractive sector activity undermines economic development and environmental diversity; destroys community livelihood; violates peoples rights; and account for civil strives, social dislocation, and health impact.
The meeting observed that foreign direct investment in Africas extractive sector has significantly increased over the last few decades. The increase however, has been inconsistent with poverty reduction, environment protection, and respect for human rights in recipient countries.
The increased investment has rather resulted in:
- Increased poverty due to retrenchment, employment uncertainties, repatriation of extractive sector wealth, discriminatory tax regimes, low royalties, and general inequality regarding benefits sharing.
- Heightened environmental problems manifested in deteriorating health conditions, air and water pollution, dewatering effect, rapid decline of forest estates and biodiversity hotspots, land degradation and access to land, and the increasing externalisation of environmental cost by corporations.
- Increased social conflicts including civil strives of different levels of intensity, resulting from denial of extractive sector wealth, destruction of sources of livelihood, dislocation and displacement.
- Human rights abuses especially against rural communities living within the precincts of extractive sector projects.
- Diminishing role of the state in extractive sector governance and citizens protection, measured against the increasing power of transnational corporations, and also the increasing role of the state in protecting and promoting the interest of transnational corporations.
The meeting noted that increased extractive sector activity has led to increasing debt burden of African countries and a declining quality of life for peoples living in extractive communities and states as nations derive cosmetic, little or no benefit from the extractive industries. These problems are reinforced by the attitude, behaviour and practices of the state and transnational corporations, and also neo-liberal regional development frameworks and international agreements.
The meeting noted that the repressive power of the state has increased. The attitude and behaviour of the state and its institutions has been hostile towards its citizens who are determined to promote their interest and rights vis-à-vis that of transnational corporations. There are instances across Africa where we witness state repression through the use of private and state security against communities and citizens for expressing dissenting views or making legitimate demands. This attitude and behaviour of the state inhibits transparency and participation in extractive sector issues.
Further, it was noted that the political and administrative structures of the state are so weak to address extractive sector impacts more so when these structures are compromised by corruption and abuse of power.
Regional integration and NEPAD
Although the meeting welcome the principle behind regional integration initiative, participants expressed concerns that the institutions and neo-liberal development frameworks would further advance globalisation and increase exploitation of Africas extractive sector.
The meeting noted that NEPAD as a regional development framework has already set the stage for excessive exploitation of Africas mineral resources. The meeting regretted that while NEPAD identifies mining as a critical area for market access for achieving sustainable development in the 21st century it however fails to develop adequate strategies for maximising the returns on mining and mitigating its impact. NEPAD as a regional development framework is fundamentally flawed in a number of respects: a) it lacks an international framework for environmental governance; b) it sets out conditionalities, which are a direct replica of the IMF/WBG conditionalities.
Participants noted that the practices and behaviour of industry in the extractive sector has been manipulative as they become more aggressive in their lobby and influence of national policy choices for the extractive sector to serve industry interest. In spite of increased participation by industry in Africas extractive sector there has been virtually very little or no forward and backward linkages and value-addition due to high offshore retention and lack of processing.
Geo-political threat of the US in Africa
The Gulf of Guinea now labelled as the New Persian Gulf is increasingly becoming a prime focus for some northern governments especially the United States of America. Aware of the implications of oil on conflict and poverty the meeting expressed concerns about the increasing interest of the United States in the New Persian Gulf.
At the international level, participants observed with concern that the policy prescriptions by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG) and agreements within the WTO are inconsistent with the development needs and priorities of African countries.
The policy prescriptions for the extractive sector are pitching mineral endowed African countries in a competition for the bottom. Indeed, under the WTO general agreement on trade in services, multilateral and bilateral donors are fragmenting African economies by demanding services liberalization. This agreement is set to prise open the extractive sector for the benefit of transnational corporations at the expense of national economies, workers, local communities, the poor and vulnerable groups on the continent.
African governments should respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of their citizens, recognise civil society as partners and therefore cease any further state repression against local communities.
2. We demand that African governments should resist any pressure to commit the extractive sector in the General Agreements on Trade in Services (GATS). The meeting welcomes the Extractive Industries Review (EIR) final report and demand its full implementation by the World Bank Group, African Governments and Industry. In particular the recommendations on respect for human rights, prior informed consent, revenue management, no-go areas, and good governance and policy reforms. We denounce the criticisms of the EIR final report by some African governments as the report made progressive recommendations that should be adopted and promoted.
5. We re-affirm our earlier demand for the World Bank Group (WBG) to stop any financing for extractive industries until adequate and transparent mechanisms are established for lending as well as damages to national economies, local communities and environment by current World Bank Group financing, among others, are addressed.
6. We demand of African governments to conduct adequate and independent cost-benefit analysis on the extractive sector. We demand the total cancellation of African debt. Debt servicing has been and continues to be one of the major constraints to African economies. The cancellation of debts coupled with good governance will allow African countries to invest in more productive and sustainable sectors of the economy for the benefit of the mass of the peoples.
8. We demand of industry and the World Bank Group to pay reparation for environmental destruction, pollution, and human rights abuses caused through extractive sector activity. Conclusion In recognition of the foregoing, we re-affirm our solidarity with local communities affected by extractive sector activity, and also our determination to work together, and in solidarity with our partners in the global south and north, to building and strengthening a Pan-African platform for advocacy on extractive sector issues.
List of individuals/Organisations
1. Environmental Rights Action/Oilwatch Africa, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
2. Mining Watch, Canada
3. CECIDE, Conakery, Guinea
4. Jubilee 2000 and Media XXI, Luanda, Angola
5. Livaningo, Maputo, Muzambique
6. Guamina, Bamako, Mali
7. Institute of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law (IHRHL)
8. Citizens for a Better Environment, Kitwe, Zambia
9. GREENDEV, Antananarivo, Madagascar
10. Mines and Communities (MAC), London
11. Environmental JusticeNetwork Forum, (EJNF), Johannesburg, South Africa
12. Lawyers Environmental Action Team, (LEAT) Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
13. ABANTU for Development, Accra, Ghana
14. Kwadwo Afriyie, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana
15. Civic Response (CR), Accra, Ghana
16. Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), Accra, Ghana
17. Amansie West Community Group, Obuasi, Ghana
18. Third World Network-Africa, Accra, Ghana
19. Friends of the Nation, Takoradi, Ghana
20. Friends of the Earth-Ghana
21. Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM), Tarkwa, Ghana.