Oxfam America and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed on April 4, 2008 to collaborate on creating a common mining code for all of West Africa. The new code will help the 15 member countries adhere to uniform standards created jointly by governments and citizens, and increase protection of human rights and the environment while promoting investment.
The agreement between ECOWAS and Oxfam America states that the new mining code's primary objective is "to facilitate the contribution of civil society in the process of forming a common mining policy that is favorable to the poor, respectful of the protection principles of the environment and of human rights, and that renders the government and the mining companies responsible through good governance practices."
"In its current form, mining activity has not made the lives of West Africans significantly better," said Mamadou Bitèye, Regional Director for Oxfam America in West Africa. "Even though gold mining has surpassed cotton and cocoa farming, Mali and Ghana still rank 173 and 135 respectively out of 177 countries, according to the UNDP Human Development Index," he said after signing the agreement with ECOWAS in Nigeria.
The regional mining project encompasses three specific objectives for the new code:
- Social stability, including the eradication of armed conflict, job security, securing income and food, and respecting good mining conduct norms
- Macroeconomic stability of ECOWAS member countries' economies
- Protection of the environment
The creation of the ECOWAS mining code is part of Oxfam America's program in West Africa to promote citizen participation in decisions related to oil, gas, and mining projects, transparency of payments by international corporations to governments operating in this industry, and uniform laws and policies across the region that will forestall the "race to the bottom" as companies compete for foreign investment by compromising their social and environmental standards.
Oxfam America will oversee the participation of civil society representatives in the drafting of the new mining code. Mamadou Bitèye, and Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the President of ECOWAS, both expressed their satisfaction in signing the agreement at ECOWAS headquarters.
"We appreciate the political will of ECOWAS in working to harmonize mining policies," said Bitèye "A regional mining code will allow joint governance and better use of foreign direct investment by avoiding the current climate of competition among member countries."