MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Letter No 8.

Published by MAC on 2004-08-15

Letter No 8.

Dear Mark,

Your misrepresent my position to cover up the weaknesses of your own. The point is not should we dialogue with corporations, but how do we do so without giving them green cover behind which they can hide their ecological crimes and so cover up for a lack of real change. You admit that ‘of course, greenwash occurs’ – conceding the issue we were asked to debate.

What I have argued for is a more principled approach, which requires:

* the direct involvement of impacted communities and peoples; * transparent audits of the real impacts of corporate activities; * solidarity with, not scorn for, those who protest: * up-front commitments from corporations to adopt real, binding standards, especially to respect human rights and protected areas.

Other conservation organisations have already learned these lessons. For example, when the secretariat of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) announced its ‘partnership’ with the mining industry at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, many IUCN members were outraged. The mining companies were being offered green credentials without having to make any commitments to change.

Faced with uproar from the conservationists who make up the IUCN membership, the secretariat had to back-peddle. First, they renamed the process a ‘dialogue.’ Then, under sustained pressure, the IUCN Council ruled in March this year that further dialogues be conditional on there being commitments from the mining industry to deal with the damage caused by past and current mines, to involve indigenous peoples and to accept the principle of free, prior and informed consent for impacted groups. This is good news, but more needs to be done to stop ‘greenwash’.

It remains to be seen whether the large conservation organisations, many of them - like FFI - members of IUCN, will also now adopt a more principled approach to dialogues and partnerships. In my view, you cannot afford to do otherwise.

Marcus

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