The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Directive on The Harmonization of Guiding Principles and Policies in the Mining Sector has been adopted and publicly announced by the Ghanaian government.
The president of the ECOWAS Commission James Victor Gbeho had during the Second Ministerial Meeting on the region’s Mineral Development Policy held in October last year in Monrovia, Liberia set up a 10-member ad-hoc committee to monitor the adoption and implementation of the directive by member states.
“We are supportive of the entire ECOWAS process in this regard and call on all other West African countries to comply” said Eva Kouka, Oxfam America’s Extractive Industries Program Officer for the West African Regional Office. “We expect the regional body to adopt the Regional mining Policy later this year, and by 2014 the Regional Mining Code.”
“This a major step forward for protecting the rights of affected communities in Ghana, where mining is so important economically and where communities have suffered such severe impacts” said Keith Slack, Extractive Industries Campaign Program Manager of Oxfam America.
The Directive which was enacted by the 62nd Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers held in Abuja, Nigeria in May 2009 places obligations on the mining companies to respect the rights of local communities. It provides, among others, in article 16, that “companies shall obtain free, prior and informed consent of local communities before exploration begins and prior to each subsequent phase of mining and post-mining operations; maintain consultations and negotiations on important decisions affecting local communities throughout the mining cycle”. Apart from the protection of the rights of the communities, the directive also aims at environmental protection and transparency and accountability in the mining sector.
“I would like to congratulate the government of Ghana for adopting this directive” said Richard Hato-Kuevor, Oxfam America’s Extractive Industries advocacy officer in Ghana. “Even though this is a bold step on the part of the government, I hope it is not the end. Measures should be put in place to ensure that these laudable principles are enshrined in our mining code for the benefit of all, especially communities affected by mining”.
Mass poverty in West Africa starkly contradicts the abundance natural resources including highly priced minerals. Oxfam America has been working in tandem with some local organizations in the region to ensure transparency and accountability and the protection of human rights in the operations of extractive industries. Recently, civil society organizations in Ghana under the umbrella of The Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas issued a statement raising concerns about the intention of some interests in the legislature to amend some key clauses in the proposed Petroleum Revenue Management Bill 2010 that provides for a citizens-based transparency and accountability framework for ensuring transparent management of petroleum revenues. “We are disturbed about the absence of transparency provisions in the bill especially as regards bidding process for oil blocs” said Mohammed Amin Adam, the convener of the group.
As the bill is being voted, Oxfam America and its partners in Ghana expect the legislature in the country to complement their efforts in ensuring the existence of the necessary legal framework for good governance in the extractive industries.