Saturday, 30th October 2010, Birchwood Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be resource rich but paradoxically remains unlikely to meet most of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and more especially the goal on Eradicating Extreme Poverty. In line with their representational, lawmaking and oversight function, Parliamentarians from Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe assisted by Southern African experts, met under the auspices of the SADC Parliamentary Forum and the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW). The overall aim of the consultative meeting was to critically review extractive industries in Southern Africa in order to identify issues pertaining to further parliamentary awareness and capacity development.
The meeting, amongst other things, dealt with important matters such as Contract Negotiations, Regional Policy Harmonization, Revenue Transparency, Environmental Protection, Sustainable Development and Social Empowerment through Corporate Social Responsibility.
THE RESOLUTIONS EMANATING THEREFROM ARE:
- There is great urgency in Southern Africa to turn the ‘resource curse’ into a blessing for the benefit of the SADC citizenry, and the role of Parliament in this endeavour is indispensible;
- Whilst the enhanced China-Africa relations seem to have created new opportunities and alternatives to the traditional trade with the West, African countries are urged to prioritize their own development needs and zealously guard national interest and sovereignty. The foregoing paradigm must be cognizant of an overarching regard for human rights and human dignity in every respect;
- The legislative and institutional environments currently obtained are weak and urgently require strengthening to ensure greater returns from the extraction of natural resources;
- It is imperative that Strategic Environmental and Social Impact Assessments be prepared by reputable experts, who are independent of both government and private sector interests, after due consultation with local communities and other stakeholders prior to commencement, to be adhered to and reviewed throughout the lifespan of any extractive operation and beyond;
- Local communities living adjacent to extraction areas, including those who are moved from their traditional lands, are often neglected and there is a need to ensure that they become ultimate beneficiaries through participation and overall empowerment;
- Environmental degradation resulting from the mining activities adversely affects local communities and the country at large, but the burden of consequent rehabilitation is normally left to governments instead of the operators. Mining companies should be held liable for remediation for the entire operation;
- The oversight role of Parliament must be strengthened through legislative review, gathering more information, enhanced interaction between the relevant portfolio Committees and concerned stakeholders, tracking contributions of the extractive industries to the national budgets and audit thereof. This can be achieved through requisite training and capacity building exercises with development partners and Civil Society;
- Research into the activities of the extractive industries with, amongst other objectives, the aim of identifying best practices in resource governance such as fiscal regimes, in SADC will provide a sound basis for ensuring optimal benefit from our finite precious resources;
- Our governments are deemed to be lenient towards Foreign Direct Investors (FDI) whereas it is necessary to uphold stringent standards prevalent in their respective countries of origin;
- The corporate practice of hoarding mining revenues outside the borders of a country where mining is taking place, militates against the balance of payments of that country and should thus be discouraged;
- The creation of common benchmarks/standards and best practices for policy and legislation on environment and natural resources management for extractive industries must be pursued with ardent diligence;
- There is thus a need for a SADC Parliament that, amongst other objectives, which would ensure harmonization of legislation and lead to greater regional oversight of extractive operations;
- The role of civil society including media is crucial in providing a sound partnership in tracking, raising public awareness on critical issues as well as assisting in the oversight function.
Finally, the meeting highly commended the SADC Parliamentary Forum and Southern African Resource Watch (SARW) cooperation, and urged its continuation for the benefit of greater parliamentary awareness, oversight and capacity development in the quest for resource justice in Africa.
‘TOWARDS ENHANCING PARLIAMENTARY LEGISLATIVE AND OVERSIGHT ROLE IN EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES SECTOR’ (French)