Many poor countries face a resource curse: while nonrenewable resources can generate significant revenues, countries that depend on them can also suffer from higher rates of corruption, social unrest, and human rights violations.
Reliance on such resources can crowd out investment in manufacturing and agriculture—economic activities that can distribute jobs and income more widely across society and provide some stability when commodity prices fluctuate. When community lands are seized for pipelines or mines, farming and fishing communities suffer. Indigenous people are particularly vulnerable—their views are often overlooked when mineral claims (or contracts) are being negotiated. And once committed to exploiting nonrenewable resources, governments do not always distribute a portion of revenues back to the communities.
Oxfam America's position on oil, gas, and mining
Oxfam seeks to ensure that oil, gas, and mining projects are designed in ways that respect the rights of poor people and contribute to the long-term reduction of poverty. Countries should pursue environmentally and socially responsible forms of development. Corporations and international financial institutions should adopt and implement policies that respect affected communities' full range of human rights. This means the following:
An active role for citizens
Communities and their representative institutions should have a meaningful say in decisions concerning development projects that will affect them. They have a basic right to free, prior, and informed consent: meaningful participation; access to transparent information on the environmental and social effects of oil, gas, and mining projects; and the right to reject proposals that will have a negative impact on their lives and natural resources.
To ensure that energy and mining projects benefit their citizens, Oxfam urges governments to do the following:
- Follow development strategies that help poor people, protect the environment, impose clear and effective regulations on extractive industry projects, and respect the fundamental rights of people and communities.
- Enable the meaningful participation of civil society in decisions about extractive industry projects.
- Ensure that corporate contracts are fair and publicly disclosed, and that a reasonable portion benefits the public in areas that produce resources.
High standards of corporate responsibility
Transnational energy and mining corporations should do the following:
- Respect basic rights, follow socially responsible practices, and engage in culturally appropriate and meaningful consultations with local communities.
- Disclose payments made to governments, as well as the contracts upon which these payments are based.
- Commit to independent monitoring of the social and environmental impact of their operations with the participation of local community members.
- Ban operations in culturally and environmentally sensitive areas.
- Follow standards of financial disclosure, as well as environmental, labor, and human rights protection, that are at least as strong as those required in a corporation’s home country.
- Cover in full all cleanup and remediation costs.
International financial institutions should provide financial support only to projects that will reduce poverty, respect human rights, and operate in countries with well-functioning democratic institutions. Projects should do the following:
- Include effective, participatory social and environmental monitoring systems.
- Generate revenues to eliminate poverty, provide essential services, and improve infrastructure in areas that will benefit poor people.
- Encourage economic diversification to prevent overreliance on the export of unprocessed primary commodities.
- Have clear requirements for companies to consult with communities and obtain their free, prior, and informed consent.
- Provide funds for social and environmental mitigation measures when projects are finished.