Oxfam doubles down on transparency and accountability in extractive sector

By Oxfam

Initiative will help support citizen groups to improve management of oil and gas revenues in Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania

International relief and development organization Oxfam America announced today that it is intensifying its work to promote economically, environmentally and socially responsible management of oil and gas revenues in Ghana, Mozambique, and Tanzania thanks to a 16.25 million Kroner (about $2.5 million) grant from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. Oxfam will focus on enabling citizen activists in those countries to promote transparency and accountability for sustainable development and poverty reduction.

In Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania oil and gas production is or could be a major contributor to the national budget. The countries are debating how to avoid the experience of many developing countries where valuable and abundant natural resources like oil, gas, and minerals, have fueled corruption, waste, conflict and the violations of the rights of communities living on or near these resources. For almost two decades, Oxfam America has been a leader on addressing extractive industries issues that were once obscure on the international development agenda. Its Extractive Industries Global Program is rooted in deep relationships with local partners in 13 countries, including Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania, and seeks policy change through local-global research, advocacy and campaigning strategies.

“Revenue from oil, gas and mining can be an important potential source of pro-development investments that benefit local communities and fight poverty,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “Thanks to this new initiative, we are now about to double down on our efforts to support citizens seeking and using information about extractive projects to participate in decision-making, oversight and management of natural resource revenues.”

The oil, gas and mining industries generate billions of dollars in developing countries each year. This new source of wealth can erode democratic accountability if strong institutions and transparency policies are not in place to ensure that citizens are included in decision-making and that revenues contribute to inclusive growth. Oxfam’s extractive industries work seeks to overcome this by increasing transparency in the sector and building civil society institutions and citizen activists to strengthen oversight and accountability.

“Communities affected by extractive industries should have a voice in whether these projects go forward, how they are carried out, and how the profits from their natural resources are used,” said Offenheiser.  “This grant will allow Oxfam country programs to expand our work in the extractives sector and more effectively engage with communities to support their rights. We will continue to work on ensuring that natural resource revenues reduce poverty and promote strong, democratic institutions.”

As emerging energy producers, Mozambique and Tanzania are in a race to be the first to export gas from East Africa. Both countries are in the process of enacting new legislation and regulations. In both countries, civil society’s involvement in the extractive industries is developing, and public access to information is challenged. In both countries, if unchecked, the management of the sector could fuel social conflict and contribute to corruption. Meanwhile Ghana stands as a potential model for Africa. As a relatively transparent and politically open emerging democracy, the challenge in Ghana is less on gaining regular access to information, but more on using information as fuel for accountability and citizen oversight activities. Oxfam’s work will reflect the different contexts in each country.

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