We, members of the Catholic Justice and Peace and Caritas Commissions from Zambia, DR Congo, Uganda, Honduras, Norway, with representation from Caritas Africa Regional Secretariat and Catholic Relief Services, met in the mining town of Chingola, Zambia on 10 -14 November 2009, to discuss the role of the Church in popular mobilisation for just exploitation of natural resources for the common good.
This meeting took place immediately after the conclusion of the 2nd Synod of Bishops of Africa where the Synod Fathers in their Proposition No 22, ‘Environmental Protection and Reconciliation with Creation’, called upon the church to:
- Promote environmental education and awareness;
- Persuade their local and national governments to adopt policies and binding legal regulations for the protection of the environment and promote alternative and renewable sources of energy; and
- Encourage all to plant trees and treat nature and its resources, respecting the common good and the integrity of nature, with transparency and respect for human dignity.
Having shared experiences from the participating countries, on the role of extractive industries in national development and promotion of common good, we state as follows:
- 1. Political Economy of Resource Control – Resource & Sovereignties
The majority of countries rich in natural resources are in the developing world but the benefits have not adequately contributed to poverty reduction and promotion of sustainable development. We therefore urge the governments to put in place policies and effective legislative frameworks for effective management of extractive resources in order to increase benefits for the poor and promote the common good. We commit ourselves to continued engagement in community mobilization and advocacy for just exploitation of natural resources.
- 2. Human Rights
There is overwhelming evidence of a strong link between extractive industries and human rights violations. For instance, displacement of poor people from their land without adequate compensation, poor conditions of service, environmental degradation and pollution. Therefore, action by governments is urgently needed to address the absence of acceptable, domestic human rights set of standards to inform the activities of companies wherever they operate and wherever they are based. We, on our part, commit ourselves to monitoring the operations of the extractive industries to adhere to the set standards of human rights.
- 3. Transparency and Accountability
There is a lot of secrecy surrounding development agreements and mining contracts signed by our governments. The majority of citizenry are not aware of the conditions that are put in these contracts. It is a reality that most of these contracts favour the mining investors as seen in the various incentives they are offered. We therefore urge our governments to ensure that the process and outcomes of all negotiations pertaining to development agreements and mining licenses are transparent and accessible to the general public in order to enhance good governance.
We applaud our Bishops for reaffirming their commitment to supporting transparency in extractive industries. We further ask the Church to continue actively lobbying and putting in place strategies that force companies to disclose what they pay to governments through Publish What You Pay (PWYP) programmes and activities.
Our governments should also embrace the principles of participation, accountability and transparency in the mining sector through the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). These principles should also be integrated in the activities of regional bodies such as New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), ECOWAS, Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Southern and Eastern Africa (COMESA).
- Community Mobilization
We affirm our commitment to work in partnership with other Civil Society Organisations to mobilise communities and prepare informed debates around human rights in relation to extractive industries. This will be done by building the capacity of communities to assert their rights for the common good.
In conclusion, we recognize that if managed well, the extractive industries have the potential to create more financial resources than the international aid that most of our developing countries receive. Our sharing revealed that this situation is the same in all the countries that participated in the meeting. We therefore urge all our governments to put in place policies and effective legislative frameworks that guarantee benefits from the extractive industries for the common good.