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Conflict Prevention & Resolution Forum: Extractives, Equity, and Conflict

2012 February 26
by sfcg

The Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum organized another interesting and engaging discussion, this time on natural resource extraction and the exploitation that can impact conflict and inequality. The panel included a Professor in Human Rights at Columbia Law School, Peter Rosenblum, and two organizations actively involved with these issues, Catholic Relief Services and Publish What You Pay.

The topic of the forum is complex, because of the opportunities created by resource extraction for development, but also the problems created from poor management and dependence of exploitation that can increase the risk of conflict. The companies work in countries that collect 25% of their revenue from resources like oil, gas, and minerals. That money is rarely seen at the local level.

Transparency was a popular concern brought up by both the panelist as well as the audience. Because much of the practice of resource exploitation and the behind-the-scenes deals made between companies and governments is unknown, understanding and monitoring the effects of the industry has been extremely difficult. Disclosing information on the payments received by companies and recording that data has been a major push by organizations and legislatures, including section 1504 of the US Dodd-Frank Act that promotes transparency in US government deals with companies. Detailed information on where the money goes and the amount received by governments and communities helps us understand the impact that resource exploitation has and the adverse effects.

Civil society activist are trying to educate companies and governments to work better with civil society and local populations. They use controlled conversations and constructive dialogue as a tool. The more effectively communities can engage with their government, the more pressure they can put on companies to comply with better standards. For instance, in Peru, public pressure helped the government step in to implement regulations on the Don Run Company’s practice when extracting natural resources. Angolan companies are also working with international organizations on cooperation and corruption.

While the advocacy of this issue is in the early stages and information is still being gathered, Isabel Munilla, Director of Publish What You Pay, noted that “small steps are having an impact.” Transparency is growing and legislation is developing to address the serious negative impacts natural resource exploitation can have on the environment and local population. However, a final suggestion from the forum was to move past our tendency to focus on all the overwhelming challenges and problems facing the sustainable development movement and to, instead, inspire the movement forward by highlighting positive examples of the significant progress made by countries that were much worse off years ago.

This post was written by Kyle Cote who attended last week’s CPRF for SFCG’s Institutional Learning Team.

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